Each year when we head south, we are always balancing how quickly we should go. Making tracks usually equals motoring, which we aren’t crazy about. Big Red is great, but we both prefer the quiet of being under sail. Not to mention with diesel currently at $5.00/gallon, it makes sense to use the floppy white things as much as we can.
So before we left for this season, we decided we would try a new strategy. Whenever possible we will pick a close anchorage, an intermediate one, and a long one, and let the wind dictate where we drop the anchor. We are also going to try to take full advantage of favorable currents vs. motoring against them, even if that means leaving a bit later in the day than we normally would (so that would be a good close anchorage day). There are many places along the ICW where the only real option is to motor, and the current changes with each inlet. But for everywhere else, we’ll try to sail and ride the currents.
As our departure date drew closer, we both REALLY wanted to get going. Jeff had broken his foot at the end of July so we already knew our goal of leaving Labor Day weekend wasn’t going to happen.
Then our first and second target dates came and went because I wasn’t finished sewing the connector. When the connector was finished we still had a few projects to cross off the list, but we finally got to the point where we started saying, “That can wait, that can wait, that can wait.”
Looking ahead at the next week’s forecast, we knew we would make very little progress due to some fronts coming through, but we didn’t care. It was time to go. So around 2:30 on Saturday, we did. We had previously decided on Old Saybrook which was only around 15 nautical miles away, and the current was in our favor, so we shut the engine off and sailed 2/3 of the way before the wind died. Not a bad start!
We hadn’t been to Old Saybrook since our first trip south in 2018, and it was nice to return. North Cove is extremely protected with free moorings for transients. We had already planned to meet up with some land-based friends on their boats which they keep there, and as we motored down the fairway we heard, “Hey, Pegu Club!” It was our cruising friends on S/V Evergreen! We had met them in 2019 on the Dismal Swamp when they were making their first trip on their old boat, S/V Catalpa. They are based in Massachusetts and we knew they were planning on heading south again this year, but we didn’t expect to run into them so quickly! What a great surprise!
The next day was filled with going from boat to boat, catching up with friends. The wind was howling outside of the cove so we were all staying put, and we made the most of it, having an excellent time. It was a fantastic beginning to our trip.
The next day Evergreen left to head to Mattituck, but we had some errands we wanted to run in Old Saybrook so we stayed for one more day. Jeff pitched the idea of just staying in Old Saybrook given that a strong front was coming in a few days, but ultimately we decided to make some progress.
Riding the current down the Connecticut River, the forecast called for light winds so we had resigned ourselves to motoring to Port Jefferson. After an hour or two, however, we had an unexpected steady 10 knots. Remembering our new strategy, we shut off the engine and tacked our way over to Mattituck. It was a splendid sail, with winds of about 10-16 knots the whole way.
As we came to the Mattituck inlet, one of the ways we’ve gained confidence over the past four years became immediately apparent. The wind had increased to 18 knots and the water was sloppy. Typically Jeff would have gone up to the mast and had a rolly, wet ride to drop the sail. But instead we decided to leave the mainsheet loose and head into the creek where the water would be much flatter. Once we did that, we decided to wait a bit longer until we approached a heavily treed area which dropped the wind, and the mainsail came down easy-peasy. In the past we wouldn’t have had the confidence to wait patiently like that as we entered a narrow, winding inlet. So between the sailing and the sail handling, we were two very pleased sailors as we dropped the anchor in Mattituck’s small anchorage.
With a very strong, lengthy front approaching, we initially planned to leave Mattituck for Port Jefferson the next day to ride out the front. The Port Jefferson anchorage area has substantially more space than Mattituck, and although the wind protection wouldn’t be as good, the fetch protection would be excellent. But as we were pulling off the mainsail cover, lifejackets on, on the verge of heading out, Jeff suggested we stay put instead. We would have a touch more fetch here, but the wind protection would be better, and we’d have the option to leave the boat. I agreed to stay as long as the anchor was truly set. After one minute in reverse at 3,000 rpm’s, I was convinced. We were staying in Mattituck.