"There is nothing more pleasant than cruising on a boat with the whole family."
Letter from Empress Catherine the Great

Thursday, September 24, 2020

September 17-24 --- Only Two Day Sails And A Work Day

The two sailing days, totaled 7.5 hours underway. The first was with Mendy and the second with Eduardo, who I met on David's Hidden Hand recently.  He described the nice ten day cruise from Providence RI to Nantucket on a friend's catamaran this summer that he and his wife and two teenagers enjoyed. I even enjoy hearing about other people's cruises! He is shown here framed by both the Throggs Neck and Whitestone Bridges, a lucky shot on a day with good clear visibility.

There is no rule against "poaching" of a friend's crew; rather it is a matter of enlarging the circle. Eduardo is a "Club Boat" member of the City Island YC. We at the Harlem have a similar program which is a membership incubator. For a fee much lower than full dues, after the person is admitted to membership and checked out as an able sailor, subject to availability, he or she can use any of the Club's small fleet of 23 to 25 foot boats. The "subject to availability" rule has never actually been operative because so far there has always been enough availability. The purpose of the program is to create new sailors who will eventually want and be able to own their own boats and will join the Club, where they have made friends, to become "Active", full dues, members. This has worked for us at the Harlem but interestingly, in Eduardo's club an unexpected adverse consequence has occurred.  Senior Active boat owning members of the club, who feel that they can no longer maintain their own big boats, sell them and reduce their membership category down to "Club Boat" status.

Both days we cut generally similar wakes with winds out of the east but varying in strength and direction: into Littleneck Bay, and out past the Throggs Neck Bridge, with variations of course. Both days we passed the same string of barges with tug attached, anchored out in the Sound. With Mendy we passed a large catamaran with nine folks sitting on the foredeck which had full sails up but was moving incredibly slowly: we passed her three times!  I am so pleased with Mendy's progress in the art of sailing. With Eduardo, I put up the genoa on port tack for the long reach from the Harlem to the moored boats at the south end of Little Neck Bay. I did it to demonstrate that sail to Eduardo; it was one of the relatively few times the Genoa was used this season.

The work day was one on which, again, I did everything I had hoped to accomplish, at least mostly accomplished them. With the help of our Marine Chairman and the Club's forklift, our dinghy, partially deflated, is sitting, inverted, on the top of the Club's dinghy rack for the winter. It could be seen as a tempting target for thieves, but they would need a fork lift to get it down. The cheapest hour of free skilled labor imaginable and it is always fun working with friends. Thanks Dan. I also removed 99% of the fish guts and scales that were spread around in a five foot diameter pattern on ILENE's foredeck; gosh those birds have lousy table manners! It was too windy on the foredeck to work comfortably and I need another pass at it with stronger soap and a stronger brush to complete the removal of the stain. 

The last problem was diesel in the bilge. I used a 3M pad (that miraculously absorbs diesel but very little water) in my rubber-gloved right hand to mop up the pink liquid and squeeze it out into a plastic one quart tub set is a large flat plastic tray. Then poured the tub into bottles with secure caps and cleaned up the spills in the tray. I got about 1.5 gallons and I think that next time I will get the final 1% when it shakes down to the lowest portion of the bilge. 

Ah, but the most important thing is that I finally figured out how the diesel was getting there and was thus able to prevent a recurrence. I chalk the problem up to my absentminded stupidity. The fuel runs down from the deck fill into the tank though a rubber type hose about one inch in inside diameter. At the bottom end the hose is pushed onto an aluminum tube that protrudes from the aluminum tank. And the hose-tube connection is secured by two hose clamps that press against the outside of the hose against the tube. Everything was in place but I had not tightened the clamps! They were in place but just hanging there uselessly. very easy to fix.

Thursday, September 17, 2020

September 9 - 16 -- Three Fun Day Sails On Three Boats

 Two wannabe sailing days during this period were thwarted by weather: the first too calm and the second too rainy. But September usually brings good winds (between the hurricanes) and this year has not been an exception. Each of the three days we went out to or past Execution Rocks and back. Each was on a different boat, all soon to be hauled at the Huguenot.  Each of the three voyages  were with reefed sails except for the first, on Ohana with Bennett and Rhoda.  Rhoda had planned to sail back from Croton with us on ILENE but that plan was foiled by the threat of rain. Lene did not join us because she was doing a good deed, visiting Harriet and her broken leg, and thereby freeing up nurse Bennett to sail with us. More wind had been forecast, but we had enough to move the boat at about five knots.

Next time it was with Lene, Linda

and Joel on ILENE. the longest sail of the three, to the Matinecock buoy (four miles past Execution Rocks) and back, 21 NM according to the Chartplotter's track function.

 Both outbound and back, with southerly winds. We needed only two tacks the way back -- off Hart Island and off the coast of Long Island. And this, alas, is the only trip on which I remembered to use the camera.  We passed this unusual junk, It has the form of a junk but looks like fiberglass, which spoils the illusion, in my eyes.  

Come to think of it we passed most everything that day, making up to eight knots for a while with small jib and reefed main.

And the third and last sail was with David and his (my new) sailing friend, Eduardo, both of the City Island YC, aboard Hidden Hand. David's jib having been torn up by the hurricane, he replaced it, with a spare sail pending repairing it this winter with his sewing machine. So we were under an 80% jib, smaller, and we  reefed the main and still got up to 6.5 knots. We beat back through Hart Island Sound, a pleasure working with stong eager men who know how to sail. Taking turns with one of us releasing while the other winched in and the third steered, our tacks were executed in crisp smooth mid-season racing form, getting the sail taut on the new leeward side as we completed the turn. I moved the jib cars back a bit for the upwind part of the journey.

And there are still a few sailing weeks left in 2020. But obtaining new boat insurance because ILENE's current insurer has decided to exit the marine market in the US, and getting a reservation for her at the Huguenot for this winter have taken many hours of paperwork and on the phone.

Goodbye Yanni

John Paskalis, at the center of the picture taken when we were scattering the ashes of our mutual friend Nick Lecakes a few years ago, passed away last week from a sudden unexpected massive heart attack. His ever smiling face will be missed by many. A carpenter/woodworker, a boat builder, a sailor of his beloved sloop "Hearts Content", an Broadway set designer and a respected alumni member of the Harlem Yacht Club, he moved down to Maryland's Eastern Shore following the 9/11 attack, to a safer locale.

Whenever Lene and I passed through the Chesapeake, we stopped to hang with him and occasionally he came up to New York to hang with his circle of friends here. He was amazingly talented mechanically and always helped his friends and opened his home and his heart to us. When ILENE had a too close encounter with a dock piling which ripped out an aluminum hoisting loop welded inside the dingy, he knew what to do and did it: a new U shaped hoop bolted inside and out after careful grinding the surface smooth, measuring and drilling. On our way back north he visited with us in DC and helped attach the new interior shade/screens for the hatches. When we got back to the Eastern Shore, he lent his car to Lene! She drove it back to New York in a few hours and John accompanied me for the next few days in sailing ILENE back here. He was a thoughtful and cautious sailor, taming the tendency toward daredevilry in me. When I had to put bungs into ILENE's cabin sole to eliminate dings and blemishes a few winters ago, he had the specialized expensive imported bits needed to do the job cleanly and mailed them to me.  When he visited New York we tried to take him to cultural events which are comparatively scarce on the Eastern Shore.

Our hearts are heavy because of his loss. Rest in Peace Yanni!

Wednesday, September 9, 2020

September 3 - 8 -- Mostly Living Aboard with One Day Sail and One Work Day

Having returned to our home mooring on September 2, we did not decamp with the kitties until the Seventh. The day sail was with Tom and Marie and a very pleasant one. We served my cold stone fruit soup with yogurt and with store bought hero sandwiches for lunch and then sailed for about 2.5 hours in the afternoon when the wind built. We sailed under main and small jib and got good speeds of around seven for a lot of the time with a peak of 8.0. We went about two miles past Execution Rocks before tacking to head back, after which the only two tacks were near the the coast of Hart Island and of Long Island. Back on the mooring, a social hour and dinner at the Club on interesting dishes: 

Lene had Paella but with crispy Chinese noodles rather than rice and I had Tikki Masala but with cauliflower and chick peas rather than with chicken. Sunset from the Harlem's deck where the food is served during the pandemic.

The work day was the last and for once I actually got everything on my list done -- in less than four hours: replacing the vertical cafe screen doors with the heavy horizontal plexiglass New York ones, wire tying a  plastic noodle to the central part of the mooring pennant so it will float, changing the engine's lube oil and filter without making much of a mess and  properly disposing of the waste oil, getting the fuel in the lines of the outboard burned out and that motor to the dock,to a cart and then to the upstairs locker and dragging the dink to the seawall and getting it out of the water and onto the lawn (at high tide) for removal to atop the Club's dinghy rack by fork lift later. A pleasant satisfying day.

Much of each of the other days was spent off the boat, but returning each night to feed the kitties and sleep aboard. Lene had a dental appointment and I got a haircut. We shopped and cooked, went through the mail, ordered filters, played miniature golf and shot skeet in New Jersey with Ken and Mendy, had work done on the car, visited Sid and Jan at their home in NJ and lazed around on the boat a lot, though we did do about an hour and a half of cleaning after breakfast on the day we departed at 11:30 am.

Friday, September 4, 2020

September 2 -- Closing The Loop; Croton Bay Back To The Harlem -- 47 NM

The Hudson, being a river, is relatively narrow compared to Long Island Sound. It's wider at it's southern mouth -- the Battery -- and much narrower north of the furthest we get on this cruise, but still narrow. Our chart plotter draws a pink line in our wake which it calls our "track". This is useful in tricky narrow passages because if we got ourselves in, then, subject to lower tidal height, we can get ourselves back out by following the trail of the pink breadcrumbs. This is not to suggest, however, that there is nothing new to see on the return trip. In fact, nature presents an ever changing view. It had rained during the night and we dried off the cockpit as best we could and left at noon in light drizzle, which cleared shortly, leaving things a bit foggy. The fog rolled over the edge of the Palisades.

Due to my distraction while outbound I failed to capture pictures of the architecturally interesting "new" twin Tappan Zee Bridges which were built only a few years ago to replace -- not supplement -- the "old" bridge of the same name which had been built recently, in the 1960's.

Manhattan's Upper West Side with the tall.skinny 57th Street residential spindles.

Barge with tug, but on anchor.

Classic large cruiser under Riverside Drive.

Motor vessel "Lionesse V" anchored mid-river in about 45 feet of water. she is available for charter and can be yours, for a group of up to twelve friends, for a week of luxury; only $450K to $750K, depending on the season. For you perhaps; not me.

Battery Park City, residential, built on land fill from the excavation of the World Trade Center with the Freedom Tower looming above.
Tide timing was perfect today. If we had left an hour later, we would have arrived only half an hour later, but at 7:30 it was getting dusky and it was a pleasant cool ride, with foulie tops and bottoms keeping off the cold at first until it warmed and dried up. With the Yanmar constantly at 2000 RPMs almost the whole way and no sails up into the southerly winds, the only variable factor in our speed over ground was tidal flow. We started at just under six knots sped up to more than eight, declined a bit before the Battery and then started up the East River at 4.8. But this quickly built to 5.5 until. at about 34th Street, on a lark, I put up the small jib which shot us up to 6.1 and climbing to more than 8 through Hells Gate and between the Brothers and under the two Bronx-Long Island bridges. Approaching our mooring field we greeted the Wednesday Night Racers who were coming out to do their thing for the last race of the series..
I love cruising, but it is always great to get home safely.
We plan to live aboard for the next few days before transporting our crew to their land base and reverting to day sailing for the remainder of the 2020 sailing season.

Thursday, September 3, 2020

September 1 -- Poughkeepsie to Croton 35 NM

First, after breakfast, was the Yanmar diesel. Aided by Lene and a "lifeline" call to Dean I replaced both the Racor and the Yanmar fuel filters and bled the air out of the fuel system. I used Q-tips to get the gunk out of the small places in the Racor's clean plastic bowl. That bowl which starts with all pure pink diesel fuel, filters the fuel and traps water from the fuel tank which appears as a white liquid in the bottom of the bowl and can -- and SHOULD -- be drained out, frequently. I had not done that and the bowl was mostly water with a thin layer of lighter weight fuel floating on top. The next filter is attached to and part of the engine itself. It had mostly fuel but some water too. We used the hand pump to draw clean fuel out of the aft fuel tank up into a very dry bottle, from which we poured it into the filters to fill them and then attached them. Then came bleeding the lines. We partially open a specific bolt and then I reach for a small lever that I can't see, because it is behind the engine, which hand pumps fuel. We pump and pump and pump until (A) the blister comes up on the pumping finger and (B) the bubbles of air stop coming out from around the loose bolt. We tighten the bolt and if we did it right, thanks Dean,  the engine starts right up! All told it was two hours which an experienced technician could have done in a quarter of the time. We left at 12:10, an hour before the high tide, because we had a stop at West Shore Marina to fuel up. (A hundred yards south of the Marlboro YC where we had spent a night on our way north.). Fifty three gallons to top off both tanks. That is a very big purchase for a sailboat, the Marina staff noted. ILENE's tanks carry 70 plus the five in the yellow plastic Jerry can. They charged a very decent price for fuel. 

Then we were off with the tide. It gradually increased our speed over the ground from 6.5, to over eight knots   We passed an old warehouse, Bannerman Castle, on Popiel Island to port, and

 this big merchantmen and other commercial shipping.

But the most impressive views were of Storm King mountain and several "Hudson River School" painting scenes with dark stormy skies. J. M. W. Turner would have liked to paint this scene too.

The passage was dry. With the wind from the south we did not put up any sails for the first time on this Hudson cruise. But for the last hour, the "light wind" forecast proved inaccurate: 25 knots of apparent wind kicked up big waves into which ILENE plowed -- the roughest conditions so far in 2020. The crew did not like it at all and their meow's told us so. But our anchorage, even closer to the north side of Croton Point than on our first night of this cruise, proved excellent shelter from the expected southeasterlies and the wind subsided for a peaceful night's sleep on 60 feet of snubbed chain in 12 feet of water at high. ILENE was the only boat in the huge bay.

Wednesday, September 2, 2020

August 30-31 -- Catskill to Poughkeepsie and Day Sail There -- 34 NM


Rip van Winkle Bridge, just north of Catskill. This was a quick passage with favorable tide except for the first hour. We left earlier than high tide to be sure to arrive at Shadows on the Hudson Marina by 5 pm -- to have the assistance of its friendly manager with the handling our dock lines. We sailed under reefed main and small jib in big winds from the west for that first hour for a thrilling sail at excellent speed. But then, when the tide turned favorable, the wind subsided so we motor sailed the rest of the way. Averaging 6.7 knots overall. We passed long stretches of the river lined by forest on both sides, without signs of humanity save the occasional buoy. When the river bends, the same forests seem to close the "end" of the river as well. Beautiful!

We met some interesting folks along the outside of the long dock, parallel to the river's currents where we were tied.

Power boaters with a big friendly dog who had moved from inside the marina for the day  "to get a better view and some air". 

A man using his parents' 39 foot Hunter to operate a day charter business taking folks our for river cruises for a fee gave me a beer, thank you,

And an extended family on a 46 foot catamaran that lives here in the summer invited us over for wine and cheese and what turned into an hour and half of excellent conversation. Vassar is here in Poughkeepsie and so it has the vibe of a "college town." "Destiny"  sails to the Caribbean each winter so lots of sharing of sea stories too.

The marina has three heads with showers all located in a trailer ashore. Not the most luxurious accommodations. It is at the foot of a large expensive restaurant/catering hall but breakfast is available only by delivery by the manager from Dunkin or a coffee shop, which we declined in favor of Lene's excellent omelettes. The $1.50 per foot fee is reasonable and includes free electricity though we did not use it. Big, clean, newish docks. We did use the water to give ILENE a bath and took walks north to the railroad station next day and had a bite and coffee at a local storefront eatery on Main Street.

Elevated view from the restaurant:
ILENE is the tall mast at the right.

The day sail was with friends from our congregation.  Eve is the adult child of my deceased mentors there, David and Gloria. Sadly, boating was never their thing. Eve, an architect, her husband, Bruce, a physician, and two of their three teen aged children, Hanna and Hadami, joined us for a few hours on the water.

Hanna handled the helm.

Their son had soccer practice. and did not join us until dinner at their home after the sailing. I failed in my photographer duties and hence no pictures of Eve or Hadami either. 

The sail started well, with motoring upstream about five miles. The building I had  thought might have been FDR's Hyde Park, was actually one of the Vanderbilt's mansions. Bruce pointed out the Culinary Institute, which is huge. My plan was to sail back, with the current and into the light winds, which by adding our current produced boat speed would provide enough apparent wind. But the wind was too light, at first, so we turned the engine back on. And a minute later, the engine turned itself off. After I removed the cabin sole, Bruce helped me pour the five gallons of diesel from the yellow reserve jug into the aft tank. (The forward fuel tank was later proved empty.) But without bleeding the engine, she would not start. Lene was afraid we would hit the rocks at the shore but we did not and once we put the small jib out again to supplement the main we gained steerage. Bruce is an able sailor, albeit inexperienced, and a quick learner. The wind got a bit stronger and we were able to tack back and forth across the width of the river, almost to our Marina. But sailing onto a dock in current, while possible, is not something we wanted to try so SeaTow met us near the marina towed us the last bit and took us "on the port hip" to push us to the dock under control. Lene was fearful but not our guests. A lovely day all in all, followed by a delicious home cooked meal, with the bleeding of the engine deferred until the morrow.