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

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Local Peripateticisms

Since my return from Florida, my sailing related activities have been more local.

One trip was from Norwalk CT to Mystic Ct over two days on “Pandora”, a Saga 43 like ours, owned by Bob and Brenda, who we met in Maine in 2008. This boat’s adventures are the subject of Sailpandora.blogspot.com . Pandora is just like ILENE, except for about a hundred improvements, large and small, that Bob has made. Pandora spent her winter in Norwalk and will summer in Maine.

We had to leave Norwalk at dead low tide to pass under the fixed Route I-95 bridge, which has only 61 feet of vertical clearance at high tide—not enough for Pandora’s 63.5 foot mast. Here is the Railroad bridge opened for us:

As a consequence of leaving at low tide, the tide was then flooding into Long Island Sound, flowing west against our eastbound direction for the first six hours of the trip. At low tide we held our breath and crept along at half a knot in an attempt to minimize the damage that would have resulted had the instruments at the top of the mast hit the bridge.The sailing was uneventful with not enough wind for most of Friday afternoon, so I whipped some lines, and learned how to use Bob’s new and improved chart-plotter display with AIS. We got enough wind to motorsail for a while but then this changed to 20 knots of wind on our nose, so we powered through it using the engine to get to the anchorage behind Duck Island and its sea walls (called Duck Island Road) which provided great protection from the waves. The rain came and left in the early morning, before we got up, so we did not get wet, but the wind was strong and in our face again on Saturday, and with more rain scheduled, Bob changed his plans for Brenda to drive up to Watch Hill RI (which had been our destination anchorage) to meet him and another couple from New Jersey. In the cold and rain, the partying they had planned would have been dampened and it was postponed; we went directly to the mooring in Mystic instead.

An interesting aspect of the trip was the rail transport, which we use so infrequently these days. I got to Norwalk by a MetroNorth train out of Grand Central Station from which Bob picked me up. At the other end, 28 hours later, a cab took me from Mystic to nearby New London, where I took an Amtrak train back to Penn Station in New York, where Ilene met me by car with a change of clothing for our evening’s party on Long Island. I had always assumed that trains from Connecticut to New York City’s Penn station passed through the Bronx (part of the North American mainland) and then down the west side of Manhattan, close to the Hudson River. But no: the train leaves the Bronx via the Hellsgate Bridge to Queens on Long Island and thence to midtown Manhattan by a tunnel under the East River. I’ve lived in New York almost my entire life but never knew that.

Two days later I joined with Past Commodore of our Club, Brian (right) and his friend Kenny (left) in sailing with Al (center) aboard his classically designed Hans Christian 38 cutter, “Cappuccino.” They don't look like happy campers here, but looks can be deceiving.

Kenny and Brian are regulars among the Harlem men who charter for the first week in December in the BVIs, including last year when we sailed with them there aboard ILENE. This voyage was from Cappuccino’s winter home at the Minisceonga Yacht Club on the west bank of the Hudson River in Haverstraw, New York, to her summer home at the Harlem Yacht Club in City Island, New York -- what I have called “The Route of the Ten Bridges”:
Tappan Zee,

George Washington,

Manhattan  (wrapped in white for maintenance-- too close for a good shot, sorry), followed by Williamsburg,

59th St,

Triboro (now renamed the RFK),



and Throggs Neck.

I drove to Al’s house in Bergen County NJ and we all drove in Al’s car to the destination. Another car had been staged at the Harlem in which we drove back to Al’s house and then I drove home – a lovely 14 hour day. We bent on the foresail during the voyage and sailed a bit but in light wind. Al heated up what I call Italian-spiced coq au vin with yellow rice, apologizing for his lack of originality, because I have enjoyed this dish the other years that I have sailed this trip with him; but no apologies are required because it is a wonderful dish so eating it once a year is no hardship, but rather an event to be looked forward to. Al’s wife Jeanne, who does not accompany us on watery part of these trips, is a master of the calculations that get us out of the starting point near high tide (which is needed to get out) thereby catching the southbound flow in the Hudson River, and get us to the Battery at just the right time to catch the northbound tidal flow in the East River.

I spent about six days -- well only a few hours each day -- cleaning and polishing the freeboard of Jim’s “Aria”, another classic cutter rigged, double-ender Voyager 26. One of my all time favorite sails was when Jim and I brought Aria from Baltimore to the Harlem, about fifteen years ago. Jim had missed last season due to illness so Aria needed more work than usual this spring to get her into shape. Yesterday, having been launched, we bent on her three sails, but not without mishap: opening the bag that contained the mainsail and dumping its contents into the cockpit, I inadvertently dumped two of its four short battens into the Bay – they do not float! So I got new ones from Doyle Sails and, when the work was done, we sailed for about an hour and a half- a lovely day. Since then I have enjoyed two more delightful day sails with Jim, once a clockwise circumnavigation of City Island's neighbor, Hart Island, formerly a prison and now New York's "potters field", where the bodies of persons who have no relatives or friends willing to bury them are buried, and the other to Mamaroneck and back.

Ilene and I almost sailed aboard “Defiance” Bennett's Seafarer 28. Bennett is another of the BVI chartering group and he became our friend in December and introduced us to his wife, Harriet, last month. The four of us almost sailed but Bennett had taken the tiller home to repair the delamination of its wood and inadvertently left it home; no steering means no sailing. So we ate, talked and checked out the boat. Defiance will be my home during the last week in July and the first of August – for the HYC Club Cruise. I am the Fleet Captain at the Harlem, which is the fancy name they assign to the person responsible for coordinating the planning of the Club’s annual two week cruise. As I have said, I control and direct nothing, but at best I’m a trusted servant, and sometimes not trusted either. Our Club’s members are a very independent lot and each Captain does as he wishes, not necessarily staying with the itinerary we plan together. The Fleet Captain's job is hard to perform without a boat, and while others offered me a berth for part of the trip, Bennett is going the whole way and needed a crew; so I’m set. Our inspection of Defiance was costly for Bennett because I pointed out several improvements that were needed. We also corrected a few things about the way the mainsail had been bent on. I bought a new block for the outer jib lead as Bennett's birthday present. Ilene knows a lady who has offered the use of her house on Shelter Island for a few weekdays and The cruise will be putting in there for three weeknights so Bennett and I may have the pleasure of the company of our wives during the summer cruise if things work out.

Down in Bequia we had met Bob and Sue, aboard their Najad (pronounced "nayad") 40, “Mawari”. The photo is of the 41 foot model. They are built in Sweden and this one was sailed from her home in England to the Caribbean and came to New York, enroute to Maine, a slight northern detour on their continued westward trajectory to the South Pacific via the Panama Canal. See their blog. We had the pleasure of offering them the use of our mooring and enjoyed some meals together, especially on Sunday, when they accompanied us on a hike of New York’s newest and perhaps the world’s skinniest park, The Highline. It was created on an abandoned elevated industrial railroad trestle that runs along the west side of Manhattan from 14th to 30th streets in a former alley between Ninth and Tenth Avenues, and then to a modern dance performance at the Alvin Ailey Theater.

And what its members continue to insist on calling by its original name, The Old Farts Club, had the first of its weekly Wednesday afternoon sails, (between lunch in the restaurant and Gin and Tonics aboard one of the boats) this past Wednesday afternoon. I helped Donnie and her friends Helen and Dolores and Rhoda sail "Dido" a beautifully maintained Bristol 38.  It was good for me to be along with the four women, most of them older than me, to do the sail handling and mooring grabbing tasks.  We sailed with main and genoa and were the fastest in the flottila. The other participants were four people aboard Erwin's Endeavour 37, "Mother Gooose" (Erwin is a master mechanic who has helped me out so many times, is the organizer of those BVI trips and was our host for the G&Ts) and another four aboard Morty and Klara's Catalina 30, "Easy Living".

So, all told, I have not suffered from sailing deprivation syndrome so far this summer.