Our decision to get a new engine this offseason unfortunately dictated an early haul out. We could have waited until our traditional mid-October timeframe, but we are having our engine replaced at Dutch Wharf Boat Yard in Branford. They do several repowers each offseason and it’s first come-first serve, so to speak. We didn’t want to wait too late and end up being last on the list which would risk a late start to next year’s boating season. So out she goes!
It was clear as the weekend of September 16th approached that it was going to give us decent weather, so we bit the bullet and decided to move Pegu Club to Branford on Saturday the 16th. Typical for the way this season has been, there wasn’t a speck of wind. Oh, we saw 4-5 knots for maybe a total of five minutes, but the rest of the time the wind instrument showed 1-2 knots, and that was only because we were motoring.
Regardless, we still had a good time. Shenny to Dutch Wharf is 40 nautical miles door-to-door, and since we knew we wouldn’t have much wind we were off by 6:45 a.m. to be sure we would arrive during the daytime. We have never taken the boat west of Niantic, so I was looking forward to a new adventure with different scenery.
Well, there wasn’t much scenery until about 2:00 p.m. because it was so hazy, but it was still a new adventure. With plenty of depth and only a few rocks and reefs to avoid most of the way down, it was a very relaxing trip. Jeff and I switched at the helm every hour so one person wouldn’t get too tired, and I enjoyed using my off-time by puttering around on the boat, making snacks, marking where we were on the chart, etc. Even the helm time was easy because the area was so wide open that we really only had to keep half-an-eye on the compass. Waypoints were literally hours apart. It had a totally different feel compared to our typical sails through Fishers Island Sound, and it really made me look forward to the future when we are doing long, open passages.
Dutch Wharf is about a mile up the Branford River, and Sam (the manager) had warned me earlier in the week about the current which could make docking tricky. As we arrived at the mouth of the Branford River, we had a bit of an optical illusion with a pair of channel markers up ahead. The red and green markers looked impossibly close together, so we turned around to gather our bearings and slipped in behind another sailboat so we could follow him up.
Well, I think he also must have been new to the area, because he clearly wasn’t happy about being the leader. Several times he slowed down to the point of drifting, and I think he was hoping we would go around him (we were well back, so I know he didn’t think we were tailgating him). No way were we going to be first, but eventually we had no choice as he reached his destination while we still had further to go. By then the channel markers were gone (the marina pilings act as a boundary line), so Jeff manned the helm like a champ while I used our handheld Garmin to guide us through.
One description on Active Captain said going up the river reminded him of “The African Queen”, and I can see why given the marsh and reeds on either side of us. Jeff joked that the arrows would start flying at us soon. Eventually we found Dutch Wharf, swapped positions so that I was at the helm again, and I motored up to our slip where I discovered that Sam hadn’t been kidding about the current! He had suggested going bow in, which was fine, and all was well until I got partway in and the current grabbed us and pushed Pegu Club off to the right. Fortunately the people next to us were out on their boat, so no contact was made. I ended up backing Pegu Club out and we successfully docked on the second try. Phew! Nine hours and fifteen minutes later, Pegu Club was at her new home for the offseason.
For the first time all season I was glad that we had a slip at Shenny. I would have been SO nervous without the docking experience we’ve had this summer, and I feel like I can maneuver her so much better than I could at the beginning of the season. Progress has most definitely been made!
It was definitely a successful conclusion to the season. I had lost a bit of confidence during our vacation, but this was the boost I needed. Sure, it would have been nice not to have closed out the season with a forty nm motorfest, but we successfully navigated our way to somewhere brand new, up a river we had zero familiarity with, found our slip in a strange marina, and all without any hiccups or damage. I think we’ll be able to do this cruising thing after all!