“This don’t look like the Coachella Valley to me.”

We ended up staying a week in Mattituck. For awhile we joked that we were going to be spending Thanksgiving there. We were extremely well-protected as several fronts rolled through, and we waited patiently. We read posts from cruising friends who were motoring steadily down Long Island Sound, bashing their way down the New Jersey coast, then bashing some more up the Delaware Bay. Been there, done that, got the t-shirt. We weren’t going to do that if we could help it. If that meant sitting around for awhile, then so be it.

While we were in Mattituck we poked around in the Italian market that we had enjoyed last time, we went grocery shopping at the bigger market, and had some of the best damn BBQ we have ever tasted, including in the south, at Meat’s Meat which was new to us. The only downside of staying there was when we woke up one morning to discover that the boat had been thoroughly strafed by the damn cormorants. That sucked, and took quite awhile to clean up.

A beautiful Mattituck sunset.
I loved the name of this local bar.
SO GOOD! Ten out of ten.
Pegu Club hanging out in the anchorage.

Finally our patience was rewarded and it was time to leave.  It was going to be a tack-fest with wind on the nose for the first two days to Port Jefferson and Northport, but the third day would be an excellent beam reach to Port Washington where we would be well protected for the next lengthy weather system.

The predicted wind the first two days ended up being on the higher end of the forecast, so much so that we decided from now on we would take the highest forecasted gusts and assume that’s what we would see for the steady strength.  But it was three wonderful, boisterous days of sailing.  

Pegu Club was a very salty girl after our sail from Mattituck to Port Jefferson.

We were actually surprised at how comfortable we were with the conditions.  I thought that taking the winter off would make us a bit more tentative, but it seems to have had the opposite effect.  We tacked back and forth through winds in the upper teens and low twenties the first two days, and we learned quite a bit about the best sail trim for Pegu in those conditions.  

On the third day we had the forecasted beam reach to Port Washington, but first we had to blast our way out of Huntington Harbor with a steady 24 knots on the nose.  Once again, we were shocked at how we handled it.  In the past, we absolutely would have turned around.  Instead we knew that if we could just suck it up for 15 minutes or so, we’d be banging a left and flying down the sound on a beam reach.  And we were.    

A blustery beam reach to Port Washington.

In fact, we were so thrilled with how great the sailing was that we made our way into the wrong harbor!  As we were sailing along, we started saying “Hmmm.  Wait a minute.  This doesn’t look like Port Washington.”  Or as Bugs Bunny said, “This don’t look like the Coachella Valley to me.”  That’s because it wasn’t.  We were one harbor too soon.  Our punishment was fifteen minutes hard on the wind, blowing 20 knots, before turning off onto a beam reach again.  Ah well.  Lesson learned.  Always put a route in the chart plotter, even if we think we know where we’re going!

Oops – wrong harbor!

Once we were actually in Port Washington, we took one of the transient yellow moorings and settled down for what we knew would be an extended stay while we waited for decent weather.  It was fine with us, though.  Out of all of the places we’ve been to on Long Island Sound, Port Washington is our number one choice for a lengthy stay.

One goal for this cruising season: more sailing, less motoring.

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.

Poor Jeff spent a lot of time lying on the settee in an attempt to heal as quickly as possible.

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.

Lighthouses at the mouth of the Connecticut River.

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.