We've spent three years cruising to the Bahamas on Pegu Club, our Bristol 29.9. Time to switch it up a bit and head to Southern California for the winter, tent camping our way across the United States.
We had been at the marina in Belhaven for a week and had a one-day window to get up the Alligator River and across the Albemarle. If the weather was accurate, we’d be in Elizabeth City by the end of the day. If not, we’d be at the Alligator River Marina for at least three nights – if not longer.
Albemarle Sound is 50 miles wide (from east to west) and anywhere from 5-14 miles long (north to south). It’s deepest water is only 25 feet, but the route cruisers follow to get to Elizabeth City or Coinjock is generally about 10 -15 feet deep and 10 miles across. Because it’s so long and so shallow, any wind over 15 knots creates a nasty chop and tends to be a no-go for most boaters. On our first trip south we had 15-18 knots from behind and we surfed our way across, making a note never to cross it in winds over 15 knots (although we’d be willing to bump it up a tad once again if the wind was on our stern). Our forecast was for 15 knots from the northeast and dropping throughout the day, so with a reservation in hand at the Alligator River Marina in case it proved necessary, we set off with all of our fingers crossed. Continue reading “And just like that, the weather turned.”→
It was another fun ride down the East River from Port Washington.High winds the day before had stirred up the water but it wasn’t noticeable until after we went under the Verrazzano Narrows Bridge.Then it was VERY sloppy for a few hours with the wind on our nose and against the current until we were inside the tip of Sandy Hook.45 minutes later we were anchored in our regular spot behind the Atlantic Highlands break wall (I think three visits makes it a regular spot, don’t you?).
Now I will readily admit that I was NOT looking forward to going down the Jersey coast.Even though we had a windless, uneventful trip from Cape May to Atlantic Highlands a few months ago, this was going to be the same direction as our trip from hell last fall, and it was absolutely messing with my mind.My nerves were NOT helped when I saw the waves near the hook as we went inside towards Atlantic Highlands.
As we talked to various cruisers about our plans for heading north, everyone assured us that it would take much less time than the trip south.The weather would be better, and with the additional daylight we could make more progress each day. Well, they were absolutely right.Going north is MUCH faster.
Granted, we’ve done a few passages in order to get some miles under the keel, but there’s no question that this has been a quicker trip for us.There have been very few weather delays, and the warmer temperatures leave us less fatigued so we can put in longer days.
Readers of this blog know that typically we move along very slowly.We like to take our time and poke along.So why the big hurry?Well, we would like to spend some time this summer cruising in southern New England again.But before we can do that, we have a few projects that we want to do on Pegu Club, we have some medical appointments to take care of in Connecticut, and we want to visit family in Rochester and the west coast.We also want to leave to start heading south much earlier this time – ideally by mid-August.Between all of those things, if we want to have ANY time to cruise our home waters we need to put the pedal to the metal and get north.If we went at our usual slow pace, we’d have to turn around and leave as soon as we arrive!
Honestly though, this pace is working out just fine for us.We wouldn’t want to do it both ways, but we do think that we’ll stick with this strategy in the future – take our time going south while moving quickly north.
We left Atlantic Highlands, New Jersey on Monday the 8th with a forecast calling for winds gusting into the high teens but dropping off later in the afternoon, and waves of about four feet decreasing with the wind.Based on the forecast we decided to leave with a reef in the main and switch to the 85 jib.It was the only thing that went right that day.
Leaving the relative protection of the anchorage the winds were gusting into the low 20’s and we were very glad that we were using the small jib.We had read that it could be rough rounding the point of Sandy Hook but then things typically smoothed out, so we were prepared for it tp be sporty.What we weren’t prepared for, however, was regular 6-8 foot waves on the bow.Although we were wearing rain pants and our lighter foul weather jackets, we hadn’t thought to put on our rubber boots.Within minutes we were soaked from head to toe.
Pegu Club climbed up the waves and down the other side, but there were a few times she dropped off of the edge of the wave, plunging through the air before slamming down on the water with a thud.I was definitely scared, but turning around wasn’t an option.The waves were so close together we were concerned we might broach.We had no choice but to keep plowing through.
Over the past few years we’ve read other people’s blogs and watched their YouTube videos recounting their trip down the East River.We would look at each other and say, “Some day that will be us.”We had even debated whether we really wanted to go non-stop to Cape May because we knew if we did we would miss the East River.Mother Nature took care of that issue for us by dictating we go inside, so here we were.The day had finally arrived.It was time to go down the East River in New York City and head into New Jersey.