We begin the second half of our Bushranger legs in discovering the delights of the American Great Loop. This half we will start in Long Island Sound, traverse parts of Canada, negotiate the Great Lakes and finish in the Deep South, on the Tennessee River – if all goes according to plan!
After an absolutely exhilarating flight over New York City, with a bird’s eye view of the skyscrapers capped in sun-kissed gilt, we touched down at La Guardia. By the time we secured our rental car, (after a tragedy of errors), we drove with extreme care through the dark to our hotel in New Rochelle, NY. The weather has not kind to us, rather chilly with spitting rain and strong winds.
We drove to Mamaroneck to view Bushranger after her winter sojourn wrapped in plastic and up on the hard. She looked magnificent with polished sides and clean underbelly.
Recommissioning Bushranger has begun: systems inspected, safety check signed off, re-provisioning completed. Tomorrow her superstructure will be re-installed.
But for now, we will enjoy an intimate dinner and watch a spectacular sunset.
Throughout this time away, we have been very mindful of our family and friends back home in Australia, who are never far from our thoughts. Even though our time in New England was not “Bushranger time”, we hope we have provided some light entertainment through our travels and helped you to forget the loneliness of covid restrictions, if just for a short while.
And now for a few reflective thoughts:
Boats: Everyone in New Jersey owns a boat and sails them on weekends and holidays. Sailboats are out; motor boats are in – big/little, fast/super fast, loud/deafening! They drive motor boats like cars – cutting the corners, coming at you fast and swerving at the last minute, overtaking to beat you to the next channel marker or pier.
Everyone in New England has a sail boat and they are left bobbing on moorings or in marinas not being used. There is an amazing number of masts acting as sentinels in harbours.
Most places (tourist spots, cafes, marina restaurants) close after Labor Day, usually mid-September, even if the weather is still beautiful.
Road Rules: Red lights are advisory. In fact, two or three cars may proceed through a red light. If red light cameras were used in NY, the road budget would be covered. A daring pastime is the jostling for take off after a red light – the car turning across the traffic tears across the oncoming onslaught. It makes for “Oh My Gosh” moments!
Weather: I had previously told Mark he would never, ever, ever again get me back on the Chesapeake in summer… and he didn’t listen. We had really hot and humid weather right up until we reached Long Island Sound, where it was just warm without the humidity.
We had lots of wind, especially in New Jersey. Wind and Atlantic waves slowed us down and made us take shelter in Cape May. Wind usually increases in the afternoons. Likewise, wind and rain delayed us in the Chesapeake. The long term effects of Hurricanes Ida and Larry frustrated us a little and meant we had to alter our sail plan.
Covid: The effects of covid – far reaching. Several places researched and on the sail plan, were affected by covid and closed, which meant a superficial visit or in some cases, abandonment. In the states of Maryland, Delaware and New Jersey mask wearing was almost non-existent. We were given the eye on a number of occasions when entering businesses. In New York and the New England region, masks were mandatory when entering shops and restaurants. We even had to show proof of vaccination in one instance.
Coffee: The pursuit of coffee is forever on the agenda.
People: The people we met along the way are the true delight and best resources of our travels. From the occasional crusty greeting to a deep and abiding friendship, from a casual or urgent need for help resulting in a selfless and all-giving response… the people we have met are salt of the earth.
Distance travelled – 363 miles
Hours underway – 55
Weather affected days – 10
Road substitute miles – 400
Road substitute days – 6
States visited – 7
And now? We are off to Tennessee to spend time with grandkids (and their parents) whom we have not been with for over two years.
Our time in New England has come to an end. We drove along the southern shores of this lovely region, sampling the flavoursome and eclectic cuisine, ogling the amazing architecture, visiting iconic sites and just soaking up the atmosphere.
Newport, Rhode Island, was an eye-opener. On arrival, we took the trolley tour to gain an understanding and overview of the city. I knew about the iconic sailing history and the historic mansions of the Gilt Age, but was very ignorant about the rich colonial and immigrant history – especially the Irish. Amazing buildings and streets dating back to the late 1600s have been lovingly restored. We explored the International Tennis Hall of Fame, home of the first US Open, hidden away in an unlikely corner.
Now Newport’s main industry is tourism, and with the advent of Covid, has been hit hard.
I thought I would help them out by touring the Vanderbilt mansion, named The Breakers. Whilst I learnt how the uber rich spent their summer holiday, Mark took the air in the gardens.
Perhaps our favourite stop was Mystic, CT, a seaport on the Mystic River. We stayed for a couple of nights in a delightful BnB, surrounded by lived-in homes dating back to the 1700s with plaques stating the names and dates of captains, sail makers and ship builders. Over 600 wooden ships were built here from 1784 until 1909. We dined in the Daniel Packer Tavern which opened in 1756. Unbelievable! The small town, itself, is a snapshot in history. The slim Main Street meanders down the side of the cliff, bordered on each side by single-fronted shops. A bascule bridge crosses the river in the centre of the village. We enjoyed walking all over this village and its surrounds, discovering delights around each corner.
Whilst in the area, we visited Groton – the home of the US nuclear submarine museum. We toured Nautilus, the first US nuclear submarine, commissioned in 1954 and decommissioned in 1980.
We also took in a little Revolutionary War history when we visited Fort Griswold Battlefield State Park, site of the 1781 massacre led by the traitorous Benedict Arnold. These were not nice times!
The days of touring were finished off by a visit to Yale University. What a stunning place! What breathtaking buildings of learning! What a vibe! We were unable to enter any buildings due to Covid – “No Visitors”, but no matter, we soaked up the atmosphere.
Now, we are in our hotel close to LaGuardia for our flight to Tennessee tomorrow. The view is not as pleasing!
Life is proving interesting with frustrating and unsuspecting challenges! “But wait,” I hear you say… “that is life!” Yes, Mark likes a challenge. Me – not so much! Let me tell you more.
Bushranger has been prepared for the winterising process: the Bimini and canvass removed, the cushions and fenders stowed, decks swabbed, internals cleaned, laundry completed.
Mark has been trying for two days to find a rental car to have for a week. To no avail. It seems when Hurricane Ida swept up the east coast, she hovered over Mamaroneck and completely flooded the city and surrounds. This meant the residents of the area had their cars rendered inoperable and hence, through insurance, used about 10,000 rental cars. This meant, none for us. I know… unbelievable!
But wait, there’s more.
Mark finally tracked down a company, not once, but twice receiving written and verbal confirmation of his booking of a car. On a gut feeling he called to double reconfirm, only to be told “Oh no, sir! I don’t know why you were told we had a car when we don’t”. At this point Mark had a major sense of humour failure. To wrap up this saga – we took an Uber to LaGuardia Airport (second attempt, as the first Uber driver said he couldn’t drive all that way) to pick up a car. Almost had another sense of humour failure when told to choose any car in the car spaces from 600 to 610. When we located the area – – – there were no cars in those spaces. Back we went to the office. The god of challenges was smirking. No problem – just had to get a car from the cleaning guys. On checkout, Mark noticed the car was not full of petrol.
But wait, the god of challenges was smirking again.
Typing in our address to get back to Mamaroneck, a 25 minute drive, we wondered why we were heading in the direction of Manhattan. Our 25 minute drive became over an hour as we were directed over the Roosevelt Bridge into Manhattan, through Harlem and out the Bronx. The car was using the ‘deep and hidden’ preferences of the previous driver. It was a real eye-opener of a ride.
We decided to stay Friday night on Bushranger. Now bags are packed, food is in a cooler bag. The day is heating up and we want to hit the road. I wondered what was keeping Mark who went to put the bags in the car. Mark returned, almost a broken man. He had spent the time away trying to figure out how to open the boot (trunk). The god of challenges almost had us, until I thought of googling the answer. I am pretty sure Mark said an expletive!
New England, here we come! Thought we would start by driving to the gorgeous port of Greenwich. Wealth here is on show, big time. Thought we would add to the economy by having a cup of coffee. Big mistake! We drove round and round and round trying to find a car park. Finally, found one only to stand in line for a projected 30 minute wait. Nah – not worth it! Headed out and down the I95 to a not so salubrious part to find coffee. Was that god of challenges grinning?
We learnt our lesson of not deviating from the interstate. We thought the I95 was too congested and slow. We turned on to the Boston Post Road – big mistake! It was going to add 2 hours to our trip, stopping every couple of blocks at traffic lights. So, after 30 minutes we humbly made our way back on the I95.
We finally made it to Providence, Rhode Island, 4 hours after we set out. We had driven in four states: NY, Connecticut, Rhode Island and Massachusetts. We were looking forward to the infamous fall colours of the foliage, only to find the colours have not started to change yet. (Bugger!)
Today, we did a road trip to Cape Cod and surrounds. No fall foliage colours, but the scenery was gorgeous. The architecture in these places is stunning and Old England in nature with stone walls and skinny country lanes over hung with green tree tunnels. I saw a deer standing by the side of the road. We kept to the scenic byways.
Our first stop was the Cape Cod Canal, a 7–mile canal joining Buzzards Bay in the Long Island Sound to Cape Cod Bay in the Atlantic Ocean. I was really keen to visit the Visitors Centre to read up on the history (and have a cup of coffee). Should have heard the chuckle! Visitors Centre was closed until further notice. (Bugger, again!)
No problem! Go with the flow… We set our sights for Onset, an historic 1800s Victorian waterfront village, complete with café and ice cream.
Next stop: Mattapoisett for lunch. This gorgeous stop with its narrow streets, white picket fences, beautiful gardens and weathered shingle homes has a Nantucket feel without the ferry ride. On the advice of the waitress, we drove to the lighthouse.
On the advice of a shopkeeper, we took a truly beautiful route via South Dartmouth and South Westport to New Bedford. We visited the whale museum and the cobblestone district.
We stumbled across the chapel of Herman Melville’s Moby Dick.
Today was a lovely day of exploration, even if the chuckles of the god of challenges could be heard.
So, things have not turned out like we had planned… but that is the nature of boating!
With a few necessary items having been delayed and requiring onward shipping (still not received), plus rain forecast for the next five or so days, plus being at least two weeks behind schedule on where we would like to be in Long Island Sound, plus and most importantly – wanting to be available for Claire and Brad at the shortest possible notice… for all these reasons we have decided to winterise Bushranger early.
We had a short sail yesterday to Mamaroneck on the northern shores of Long Island Sound. This is really a delightful gem, three miles from the Connecticut border and 15 miles from NYC, and most importantly, 20 minutes by car from LaGuardia Airport.
Having made the decision this morning, we spoke to the yacht yard manager and service manager, both of whom filled us with confidence in looking after our old girl. We spent this afternoon dismantling the eisenglass and Bimini, cleaning and stowing both. Tomorrow we tackle the antennas, dinghy, refuelling and inverter repair. Bushranger is going to be hauled out of the water and shrink-wrapped. This is to protect her against the snow and ice and freezing conditions they experience in winter in these parts.
On Friday we will farewell Bushranger and hopefully return next year. This sailing season has been short – no complaints. We have enjoyed the challenges, the sea air in our faces, and especially the people we have met along the way. We have been blown away by unexpected kindnesses.
We will commence exploring the towns and seaports on the north shore of Long Island Sound by car until 1 October when we hope to surprise our grandson, Ben, for his 8th birthday. That is, unless required earlier by Claire.
Shall end this blog post with some interesting and amusing American sayings:
Acclimate instead of acclimatise (I know it has crept into the Australian vernacular).
Gunkholing which translates in Aussie to dropping the anchor or mooring out.
Birding which translates to bird watching, not what Mark thought as ‘looking for girls’ when a teenager!
And my favourite is muddling which is short for using a pestle and mortar.
Don’t you just love language? Who knew there were so many variations in the English language?
Deciding to put the inverter ‘crisis’ in abeyance (or denial), on Wednesday 15 September we rode the Staten Island Ferry passing the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island to Manhattan. Our objective – to walk the High Line – a disused freight train rail spur on the west side which is elevated above the street and now turned into a pedestrian walkway. It has cultivated gardens to entice bees and butterflies and wends it way very closely between buildings. No social distancing here! Can look straight into apartments and offices. We had lunch on the High Line with glimpses of the Hudson River.
That part was great, but the getting back to Great Kills was tortuous. In high humidity and temperature, what should have been a ‘short’ walk and express bus back, turned into a 2 hour walk, then metro from Grand Central to Staten Island Ferry to Staten Island train to Uber ride back to the boat. Ah… the best laid plans…
Long Island Sound… we’re here!
Sailing the Upper NY Bay is exciting, exhilarating and hopefully, once in a lifetime experience.
Once under the Verrazano Narrows Bridge we danced with and dodged the big ships, ferries and barges. We sailed by Governors Island on starboard and The Battery on port.
We entered the East River and began our journey of ducking under seven bridges, beginning with the Brooklyn and Manhattan Bridges and ending with Throgs Neck Bridge.
We sailed past the UN building and Roosevelt Island, judging our transit of Hell Gate (confluence with the Harlem River) at slack tide. Further on we passed Rikers Island – the home to NYC main jail complex. It looks desolate and forbidding. We spotted LaGuardia Airport situated in Queens. On past Hart Island, located in the Bronx, which has such a rich history: army training for coloured troops; prisoner of war camp during the Civil War; potters field where over 1 million people were buried; quarantine station; psychiatric hospital and sanitarium. And the island is only 1 mile x .33 mile!
Now we are enjoying the delights of Manhasset Bay on Long Island Sound.
We are also enjoying the reunion with Rick and Mary on Exhale. We first met Rick and Mary on the Tenn-Tom in 2018. We have enjoyed their hospitality on their boat and in their Fort Meyer’s home. They are great friends who help with troubleshooting problems and provide moral and physical support when needed.
We have a hoot when we are together. Tomorrow they head for Baltimore. But tonight, we dine aboard Exhale and will make wonderful memories.
Actually, we have a few! But the major one is our inverter. That means no power. Yikes! It is Mark’s turn to say a few expletives.
We made it to Great Kills Yacht Club on Staten Island after a gloriously smooth North Atlantic sail. After chatting to our neighbours we came inside the cabin to a burnt electrical smell. After investigation Mark isolated the problem to a burnt out inverter. Panic stations! No coffee, no microwave, no oven, no anything and batteries slowly losing charge… Can’t stay aboard. All enquiries for marine electricians resulted in everyone is overbooked and can’t see us for a couple of weeks. Mark made numerous enquiries to get a replacement inverter… ALL out of stock! Unbelievable (and more expletives)!
Then a lovely New Yorker, John, came aboard. He provided us with a charger so that two of the three house batteries could be charged. This means we can stay on board. He would not take payment for the charger and returned later in the evening to help out. We were totally blown away with his thoughtfulness and help.
At our next marina in Long Island Sound we will seek professional help from marine electricians. We will also meet up with Rick and Mary – who will be coming to our rescue with boating knowledge par excellence. (No pressure Rick)
Yesterday, we completed our slow and steady progress through the New Jersey ICW. It provided a few challenges which on reflection, we are quite proud to have born and come out the other side unscathed. We saw some lovely sites, felt the thrill of sailing in busy, skinny channels, and lived to tell the tale of sailing in less than desirable depths of water. We traversed the Point Pleasant Canal, a raging, swirling mass of water, akin to being in rapids and then spewed out into the lovely Manasquan River. We entered the North Atlantic Ocean via the scenic Manasquan Inlet at slack water, deciding to forego the exhilarating 4 knot current!
Just when I thought the nail-biting stuff was over… I broke two fingernails today.
We awakened to Bushranger gently swinging on a steadfast anchor in a calm basin, surrounded by lush marshes. We enjoyed a cooked breakfast as the sun rose above Atlantic City.
Then I ran aground!
Mark was busy washing mud from the anchor and 60 feet of chain, when he decided to leave the cleaning and takeover the helm. He did, but we didn’t move! I hadn’t realised the bow was aground when the sensors read 6 feet of water. Bummer!
Next was the excruciating exit passage from the basin. We had timed departure on the rising tide, 2 hours after low tide. There was suppose to be 1.5 feet of tide. Bushranger draws 4ft. We exited with the gauges reading 4ft 2 inches. Did I mention I gnawed two fingernails and I may have said a few expletives I don’t usually say!
On through Absecon Bay – a huge waterlogged incredibly shallow estuary that required constant attention. Wind buffeted us the whole crossing. Swirling waters and eddies flowed, and at times, white caps were whipped up. There were lots of bird life and many marshy islands. The zig zag, narrow channel through was excruciating for me, but a welcome challenge for Mark.
The scenery improved when we reached Long Island, NJ. Houses are magnificent with boats moored out front. The channel here was so close to the homes, we could have asked for a cup of coffee as we passed.
Then we entered Barnegat Bay… I thought we had been wind blasted in Absecon Bay! That was nothing compared to Barnegat Bay. This bay is big and although not as shallow as Absecon Bay, we stuck to the channel. At this point I will make an observation about the people in this part of New Jersey. EVERYONE has a boat. And everyone who doesn’t have a boat has a friend with a boat. And every boat is faster and noisier and throws up a wake that tosses Bushranger outrageously.
Now we are in a marina in Tom’s River – in a slip a far cry from Cape May!!!
Did I have fun today? Yeah (apart from my fingernails)! Am I tired? You bet! Did Mark have fun? Absolutely!
Travelled six hours under horrendous conditions, battling huge seas and buffeting winds!
Spotted pods of dolphins frolicking along our route. Spied fish herding jellyfish for a feed. Provided a perch for a straggler who decided to join us a mile off the New Jersey coast. And he made himself quite at home!
Crept ever closer to the monolithic beacons of Atlantic City.
There was no accommodation at any of the marinas due to a boat show in town. So we tootled past the casino and now reside very comfortably at an anchorage in Rum Point Basin.
We are coming to the end of our layover in Cape May. The weather prevented us from heading out into the Atlantic Ocean and travelling up the New Jersey coastline to Atlantic City.
On a recommendation we stayed at South Jersey Marina, providing a whole new level in luxurious bathhouse amenities.
Whilst here in this very pretty and well appointed marina, we have experienced buffeting winds and thunderstorms. We put the time to good use – painting the last remaining section of decking, and even walking to a West Marine store on the rainy day to replenish boat maintenance gear.
In fact, Cape May is so flat and incredibly easy to explore on foot. This is such an interesting place. The town of Cape May has the largest collection of Victorian architecture in the USA and has been declared a National Historic Landmark. Victorian architecture equates to turrets, porches, gingerbread mansions and gorgeous gardens. Each house is a delight. Streets are virtual tree-tunnels. Lush greenery and colourful blossoms abound.
We walked along the boardwalk (which was actually a concrete promenade), soaking up the sun and beach air.
We’ve dined like kings. Promenaded like Europeans. Gawked like tourists. It is now time to move on.
Cape May, you are one colourful and delightful town.