Exody - June 4th - Portsmouth, Annapolis, New York, Bristol, Newport
Exody completed ARC USA arriving in a grey and damp Portsmouth, Virginia two weeks ago today on Saturday May 21st. Motored most of the last 24 hours to beat the forecast deeper low. Portsmouth is well up the Elizabeth River, home to Uncle Sam's impressive naval fleet and the city of Norfolk across the water. Negotiating the busy shipping lanes that cross over at the entrance to the Chesapeake, we still had a few hours to go after passing over the 13 mile Chesapeake tunnel-bridge. The landscape was low and apparently bleak.
Today June 4th we are anchored in a foggy Newport Rhode Island, which feels as busy a sailing venue as the Solent. It is Saturday so there were yacht and dinghy races aplenty and many elegant, classic, excursion sailing boats plying their trade.
In the intervening fortnight we have had a memorable kaleidoscope of USA, boat maintenance and family experiences!
At Portsmouth, ARC Yellowshirt Jake had organised drinks one night and a dinner the following night- a welcome welcome for the six strong fleet. Clearance was coordinated on the Sunday and we took the pastiche paddlewheel ferry across to Norfolk. With SIM cards organised for phone and data, essential supplies and a haircut for me, we set off Monday lunchtime with the downriver tide for Annapolis following Hugur and Ayama. Turning north into the wind and foul tide of the Chesapeake at the rivermouth, Exody was making barely four knots under power and bucking the waves. Without warning it started to 'rain' inside the boat, leaking from the ceiling void- I could only think the previous day's torrential rain had got in somehow and was now finding its way in - very worrying since chart table and galley both in the wet zone!
Wind, sea and tide soon moderated and it was a busy night navigating the buoyed channels, the tugs towing and the fish trap areas in the shallows right next to our route. It was a 21 hour motor to make the 140 miles to Port Annapolis Marina. The approach was busy with all kinds of vessels and the navigational marks virtually all hosted an inhabited osprey nest - very rare at home but a commonplace here.
Annapolis is a characterful and well preserved historic city and naval/yachting centre. It hosts a large naval college- cadets in all-white uniforms even off duty. We enjoyed the water taxi ride into town, breakfast at Chick and Ruth's delly where the locals stand and swear allegiance to the US flag at 08.30.
It was a hive of activity in Annapolis the Wednesday we left. Apart from graduation day at the naval college, the Blue Angels flying display was scheduled from 14.00. Thus we left port negotiating a huge armada of smallcraft anchored off for the best view and clearly set to party for the day! Carrying the tide north we made the delightfully peaceful anchorage 45 miles away at the Sassafras River just before sunset. Large waterside weekend and holiday retreats abound here amidst the wooded shores and beaches. We saw deer on the beach and shared the anchorage with just one other boat.
Off early Thursday to carry the tide to and through the Chesapeake and Delaware canal - an attractive passage with more rural retreats and only one ship encountered. We waited for the railway bridge to close and open and passed under several other road bridges. We are within about 35 miles of Washington, Delaware, Baltimore, Newark and Philadelphia. Emerging into the Delaware River we tucked in behind Reedy Island at lunchtime after 29 miles to wait for the tide.
Leaving late afternoon, our engine stopped unexpectedly after two hours, fortunately in a wide part of the estuary with little shipping. Sails up and started tacking downcurrent and upwind as I tackled the lack of fuel to the engine, eventually jury-rigging a jerrycan supply to keep us going. Clearing Cape May during the night we were sailing again with a southerly breeze by midnight and made for an unscheduled midmorning stop at Atlantic City for jerrycans and fuel. As the sailing was good and the engine bad, we passed our planned stop at Manasquan River, making our way up the low-lying New Jersey coastline punctuated only by water towers. Eventually feeling our way into the anchorage at Sandy Hook, just south of New York, 178 miles from Reedy Island at 01.30 Saturday morning - we were (just!) on schedule for our weekend family rendezvous. We slept very well and were suprised to wake and find ourselves alone in the anchorage.
Arrival in New York was memorable - the flotilla of small boats everywhere mixed with commercial shipping and ferry traffic kept us on our toes as we passed under the Bridge, the New York skyline hazy at first but the sun shining on the Statue of Liberty for the obligatory snaps and selfies. Memories for us as children of the same approach on the Queen Elizabeth I in 1958 for me and on the France for Marian in 1965!
We were soon tied up at our marina berth on the Jersey City side of the Hudson just a mile or so from the Statue. Within an hour younger daughter Tessa made her surprise (to Marian !) appearance. The day was soon done - I crashed and the girls went to Greenwich Village for a drink.
Sunday morning saw the arrival of Marian's brother and daughter, sister and daughter with husband and two children. Exody made a good playground for Abby and Seamus. Soon packed all of us into the car for our focused NY experiences- lunch at Katz - famous for pastrami and rye, a poignant visit to Ground Zero and the adjacent new buildings - I have a photo in my archive taken at age 17 in 1970 when the World Trade Centre was under construction. A walk and lie in the grass in Central Park followed by Thai dinner at a bijou place called Noodies and finally nightcaps at an Irish Bar.
Tessa stayed on board with us Sunday and Monday we made our way by reduced service - ie slow- public transport to a Trinidad Roti shop in Brooklyn. Here we were entertained by impromptu dancing to the music before persuading an off duty taxi driver to take Tessa to JFK. The rest came back to Exody for a short 'lime' before heading home to Pennsylvania, leaving Marian's brother William with us for next leg north. The three of us met up with Hugur and Ayama for an Italian meal near to their West 79th Street marina.
Tuesday 31st we set off with the morning tide, refuelling at Liberty Landings and heading up the East River the extreme buzz of the heliports, ferries gradually giving way to quieter industrial zones. Passing La /Guardia airport and the massive prison island of Rickers, the stretch of water known as Hells Gate (ie get the tide right!), the upmarket Long Island properties were soon abeam. Pushing on through the Long Island Sound right the night in spite of some foul tide, we had the jerrycan refuelling logistics down to a fine art, together with collecting the overflow fuel for recycling. Wednesday morning at 08.00 we were at 'The Race' (ieanother get the tide right) and were soon able to sail the last stretch up the Providence River past Newport and to the famous Hinckley yard. Here we stopped for 30 minutes to collect two fuel tank access plates I had ordered. Then on a further five miles to pick up a municipal mooring at the sleepy harbour town of Bristol. The bay soon filled with the pleasing Wednesday evening sight of a sailing race.
William left in a hire car the following morning and we explored a little. The town seems archetypically New England- clapboard and timber shingled houses, carefully tended gardens and window boxes, US flags everywhere. Many houses have a plaque with date and name of original builder some going back to the 18th century.
By lunchtime we were back onboard tackling the dirty fuel and tanks. Emptying the cavernous cockpit locker for access to the tanks always results in a complete pickle on board. One access plate was soon fitted and several prune-like lumps of sludge satisfyingly removed. By late afternoon I was back ashore walking the mile and half to ACE hardware for more jerrycans to fully empty the tanks. The job took that evening and the whole of the following day, Friday 3rd, the engine finally and thankfully re-started on clean fuel from clean tanks at 21.00.
Today Saturday 4th, we showered at the brand new refurbished Bristol Harbormaster facilities - then to Portsmouth (second town of this name) to refuel, fill water, and pump out (for US Coastal Waters are 'no discharge zones'), en route for Newport eleven miles away. We have met up with Vulcan Spirit (another UK northabout-bound boat) and should be back in synch with Hugur and Ayama by tomorrow.
This completes Exody's ARC logs and the ongoing journey to Scotland via Canada, Greenland and Iceland can be tracked on https://my.yb.tl/exody/map-only/ and at exody.wordpress.com.