Great Kills, NY to Falmouth, ME
May 16th – Pathfinder’s crew had an “easy” morning, as the tidal current for passing through New York Harbor and the East River did not flow in our favor until mid-afternoon. We took the yacht club launch ashore and noted that the Richmond County Yacht Club was finally starting to rebuild, two and a half years after hurricane “Sandy” destroyed their clubhouse. There were other signs that the town’s rebuilding effort was not complete, but for the most part things were finally back to where they had been before October of 2012. We did some shopping in the “Russian” Italian Grocery that the Admiral had discovered back in 2012. In the fall of 2014 she had given the Captain directions via the phone (while the Captain was alone in Great Kills waiting for a joining crew member) on where to look for an outstanding Russian grocery. The Captain never found it, but an RCYC member generously gave us a ride up town this day and informed the Admiral that the market was Italian not Russian. The Captain decided that this is why all his inquiries in Russian had been rebuffed last fall. So we entered the market and found many Italian products. but here and there on the shelves were products labeled in Russian, so the Admiral felt vindicated. We headed back to Pathfinder despite an invitation to attend the spring opening ceremonies of the RCYC, the same day, we noted, as Portland Yacht Club’s kick off back in the “frozen tundra” of Maine. As we found on our trip back home in 2013, the boating seasons of New York and southern New England are not all that much advanced over Maine’s. We were back aboard and underway at 1330, bound for New York, New York. This was a Saturday and the striped bass fishermen were out in full force. We
had to carefully pass by the points of land while fishermen cast far and wide, and the center console outboards crossing our path were all trailing lines. There was a thick haze on the Brooklyn shore but we were able to see the tops of all the buildings in Manhattan. We picked up a fair current after passing under the Verrazano Bridge (the largest bridge we passed under the entire trip). It was noted that Ms. Liberty now sports a real flame from her torch with the extensive upgrades of the last few years complete. As always, New York Harbor was full of commercial traffic, but it was not as heavy as we
had experienced in the past. We stayed south of Governor’s Island to avoid the comings and goings of the Staten Island ferries and found our run up the East River seemed to be routine. The buildings and people of Manhattan always provide an eyeful but it is also vital to keep an eye on navigation and traffic management since you never know what type of craft will be coming around the next bend. A strange looking excursion craft of some sort was noted coming up
from astern but it was not making much more speed than Pathfinder. The trickiest spot in the East River is “Hell Gate,” where the Harlem River joins the East and where tidal currents can run up as high as four to five knots. There is an “S” turn in the channel for vessels as they clear the northern tip of Roosevelt Island and continue up the East River toward Long Island Sound. It was just at this point that the watch officer in the wheelhouse of the excursion craft decided that he should be passing Pathfinder.
Instead of calling on the radio, or initializing an overtaking request with the proper horn signals, he blew the danger whistle of five short blasts, which basically meant that Pathfinder should get the hell out of his way. Now as someone who has taken a few Coast Guard “Rules of the Nautical Road” exams in his lifetime, the Captain picked up his VHF radio and hailed the craft named “Hybrid Hornblower” and asked (maybe a bit testily) if the operator was requesting to overtake Pathfinder. The
operator was probably a bit taken aback by a radio call on channel 13, the official bridge-to-bridge communication channel, as most yachts do not monitor it. He did admit that, yes, he would like to overtake Pathfinder on the starboard side. The Captain then agreed and said that he would slow down to make the passage easier. All would have been well and good except after the Hybrid Hornblower went by, it slowed down and now Pathfinder had to slow down to avoid overtaking it. This was all in the vicinity of New York’s infamous Rikers Island (home to the prison) and the screaming jets overhead landing at La Guardia airport. At this point the Admiral made her feelings known about the competence of the Hybrid Hornblower’s operations. The Captain called the vessel and spoke to a new voice that seemed a bit more in charge, and was told to go ahead and overtake them as they were turning soon into a marina. It would not be a run through New York Harbor without a few interactions with the numerous numbers of vessels that ply its waterways. In the early evening we entered Long Island Sound and turned into Port Washington’s excellent harbor just east of the Throgs Neck Bridge. The town maintains a number of free moorings for transient boats and we had a quiet evening and a good night’s sleep, knowing there were plenty of folks in the Big Apple who weren’t getting theirs.
May 17th – We woke to a Long Island Sound fog that moved in and out of the harbor and seemed to be on the verge of burning off. After taking on fuel we motored out of the harbor and found ourselves with visibility of a few feet. The radar was working well and kept us clear of the numerous sports fishermen who were not going to be denied, no matter what the weather. We wound our way out the Port Washington channel, past the
lighthouse on Execution Rocks and then plotted our course east-northeast for the long run down the Sound. Every so often a radar target would be maneuvered around and we kept up steady progress without any close calls. About noon a fast powerboat came up astern. Fortunately their Automated Identification System (AIS) was operating and the Captain called them on the VHF and let them know that they were on track to run down Pathfinder. Twenty-three knots in the fog seemed a bit excessive, but there are plenty of fast boaters that feel that with all the chart plotters and radars, they can do as they please. Just as the speedboat blew by, the fog started to clear, as if the passerby was sucking it out of the Sound. Within thirty minutes we had good visibility in all directions and the radar was given the rest of the day off. After a fifty-mile plus run we
arrived at a unique archipelago for the Connecticut coast. A small group of granite islands, islets, rocks and reefs are strewn just to the east of Bridgeport, and are called the Thimble Islands. Suddenly you feel that you might be approaching the Maine Coast and if there had been spruce and fir trees on the islands the feeling would have been complete. Being in a heavily populated area of southern New England, what were on the islands besides native
deciduous trees, were lots of homes of all shapes and sizes. The winds were calm and we picked up an empty mooring and were glad we were here on a calm night in the “off” season. Local history buffs say that Captain Kidd once hid his ship amongst the islands to escape notice of the authorities. Since anything to do with pirates in this day and age means a commercial opportunity, one of the local tour boats sported a huge skull and crossbones flying from its transom. The evening turned very warm with no wind and since it had been a few days since she had a proper bathing, the Admiral decided that it was time for the sun shower to be rigged. Most of you may know that a “sun shower” is just a manufactured plastic bag that is clear on one side and black on the other, with a shower attachment. The sun heats up the water, so all that has to be done is to hang the bag in a proper place and sit under the nozzle. The Admiral had the Captain rig the sun shower from the end of the boom so she could sit in the cockpit and become clean. Fortunately she was wearing a bathing suit, for just as she had lathered up, here came one of the tour boats with a full complement of guests on the upper deck. Since the channel running through the Thimble Islands is fairly narrow the boat passed close to Pathfinder and everyone on deck had a great view of the suds upped Admiral. Without missing a beat she kept on washing and by the reaction of some of the ladies on the tour boat, this was a type of public cleaning they had never contemplated. No doubt some will remember this long after Captain Kidd is forgotten. The Captain managed to take his shower discretely.
May 18th – The warm temperatures of the previous evening were just a memory as we rose to an east wind blowing across the chilly waters of Long Island Sound. The forecast was only for 10 knots, so we felt that we could make the 40 miles to Stonington, CT. We also knew that the currents would not be in our favor all morning. The ebb and flow of the tides in Long Island Sound set up strong currents, especially the further east you go. After clearing the Thimbles we found our speed dropping down to 4 knots and occasionally less. The 10 knots of wind forecast turned into something more and by late in the morning we were having a rough ride with the wind blowing 15-20 knots. Although the current was starting to ease, the crew felt they had had enough and turned into the Connecticut River. After entering the River the town of Old Saybrook lies on the west bank. There is a large marina but it was exposed to the east winds so we continued a bit further and ran into a narrow channel that leads to “North Cove.” Mooring balls were lined up like soldiers in several rows, but this still being early in the season, there were only a few boats. Calls to the local yacht club went unanswered so we picked up a mooring and retreated to the cabin for hot soup and a quiet afternoon.
May 19th – The east winds had dropped off, so Pathfinder was underway at 0530 to take advantage of the last two hours of the ebb current out in the Sound. Although the winds were light, the rain and fog were present and we were wondering about our New England welcome?! Steady rain started about 0800. The connector window was kept in between the dodger and bimini and it provided some relief from the cold rain, but the visibility through the plastic was pretty marginal in these conditions. About an hour from Stonington the Captain requested that the Admiral remove the connector, which did help the visibility but it was a cold wet run until we finally cleared the breakwaters and entered the harbor. We proceeded to Dodson’s Boat Yard where they managed to squeeze out an opening for Pathfinder to tie up. The yard was extremely busy, getting ready for the Memorial Day weekend and launching boats as quickly as possible. Judging by the vessels being launched the yard’s cliental have very good taste
(in my humble opinion) and probably a good income. Concordias, Hinkleys, Morrises, and, of course, Sabres were amongst the many makes of boats at the docks. A 40 foot or so ketch was preparing for an imminent departure for the Azores. Due to the rain the skipper decided to postpone for a day. This is the home of the “Dog Watch Café,” which allowed the Captain and Admiral their chance to warm up with a top notch cheeseburger, after they had a good hot shower. Thanks to the dock electrical connection our heater kept the cabin toasty and helped to dry out the hanging foul weather gear and wet gloves.
May 20th – Thunder and lightning in the wee hours of the morning heralded the next cold front pushing through. The Admiral reported it to be quite a show, but the Captain only caught a few minutes of it all. The winds behind the front enabled all the unsecured halyards on the recently launched boats to play a tattoo on the masts, and once again it was the Admiral who caught most of the performance. Needless to say she was up well before the crack of dawn and ready and rarin’ to get underway. We did try to push off at 0530 but quickly found that west winds had Pathfinder pinned to the dock while tightly berthed between a Grand Banks trawler astern and a Swan 50 plus sloop ahead. Several attempts were made but the Captain only gave the Admiral heartburn wondering how we would pay off the bill of Pathfinder’s bow implanted in the stern of the Swan. We were about to give up and wait reluctantly for the yard crew to show up in an hour, when the crewmember bound for the Azores and his wife came walking down the dock. Thanks to their assistance, a well-timed push on the bow and a strong pull on Pathfinder’s stern line allowed us to swing the bow through the eye of the wind and escape. It was a beautiful morning motoring out of Stonington with Fisher Island reflecting the rising sun. We motored past Watch Hill Light and down the long stretch to Point Judith, RI. Block
Island stood out clearly on the horizon and the ferry made its morning run from Block into Point Judith harbor. We were now crossing the wide expanse of Rhode Island Sound and as predicted a west-northwest wind started to blow in earnest. The sails were set and the engine silenced as we made our way past the mouth of Narragansett Bay and the Sakonnet River. From there we entered Buzzards Bay, passing Westport where the Captain and Steve Morrow put in for emergency repairs late last September, at the very start of the voyage. Continuing up the Bay in the gusty west winds we reached the approach channel entrance to the Cape Cod Canal. The sails were secured and a short motor later we were in Onset Harbor as the wind howled and we picked up a welcome mooring for the night. Another 70-mile day in the books.
May 21st – There were frost warnings up for some parts of interior Maine and
Massachusetts but it was a balmy 47 in Pathfinder’s cockpit at 0500. We actually had a little time up our sleeves waiting for the current change in the Canal but the “horses were smelling the barn” and were a restless lot. At 0615 we wound our way out of Onset and into the Canal. As with every other trip the Captain has made, fishermen lined the edges of the Canal and cast their heavy lures with distance looking for the striped bass to rise. Despite Pathfinder sticking as close to the center of the channel as possible, some of the casts landed the lures within 10 feet. They couldn’t possibly be trying to hit us, could they? By 0730 we cleared the Canal and entered Cape Cod Bay and set a course for Cape Ann, about 50 miles across Massachusetts Bay. A sailboat that had just departed the Sandwich marina overtook us and hailed us on the radio. It was “Shearwater,” a Moody 42 sloop, with a couple from Salem, Mass whom we had first met in Titusville, FL. Our paths seemed to cross now and again and we had last talked in the Chesapeake. Today they would be home and Pathfinder would be a day closer. At 1600 we passed by the impressive twin light towers of Thatcher Island, just off Cape Ann. They must have been a welcome sight for the Grand Banks fishermen sailing back to Gloucester with their holds filled with cod. Rockport Harbor is located on the east side of Cape Ann and at the height of the summer is crammed full of boats. It is a very small harbor with protection from a breakwater. An iconic red fisherman’s shed sits on a granite wharf and has been the subject of artists and
photographers for generations. As directed by the harbormaster we tied up to a “floating dock” (not connected to the shore) opposite another sailboat. The Admiral did a cleaning job and swept off the bones and shells left by the resident gulls. The harbormaster informed the Captain that Pathfinder was receiving the pre-Memorial Day rate of $0 per foot. The Captain thanked her for her generosity. There were only seven or eight yachts on moorings (with a number of lobster boats in the very inner harbor) so we were most definitely on the leading edge of the northern New England boating season. We enjoyed the sight of the scenic New England village and noted a few bundled up tourists snapping pictures. A small outboard entered the harbor with a family on board. A young girl was perched on the stern dragging her bare feet in the 50-degree water. Another hearty New Englander! By 2030 Pathfinder’s lights were out.
May 22nd – The alarm went off at 0400 as the Admiral and Captain wanted an early start for their last long push. They were a bit too optimistic as cloud cover kept the pre-dawn light quite muted and with a number of lobster pot buoys at the harbor entrance they needed a bit more visibility. At 0500 Pathfinder headed out of the harbor and pointed her bow to the northeast. The winds were light and from the south, but the mainsail was set
to provide a little stability in the increasing southerly swells. We were grateful for the light winds since it didn’t take much of it blowing over the 48-degree seawater to make our air temperatures pretty chilly. (Our layers for warmth consisted of long underwear, fleeces, down jackets and our sea-going foul weather gear). Our course took us well outside the Isle of Shoals and Boon Island. There were a few offshore pot buoys, and lobster boats from New Hampshire and then Maine were seen passing. Mount Agamenticus and some of the foothills to the White Mountains were seen in the distance. The mood of the crew was bright and cheerful and music by Schooner Fare filled the cockpit. The swells prevented the autopilot from doing its job so the
Captain and Admiral took one-hour watches doing the steering by hand. The swells built a bit in height and kept us rolling pretty consistently all day. At 1430 we approached Cape Elizabeth and the islands of Casco Bay were a sight for sore eyes. Since departing the Bahamas we had not seen a stretch of water filled with islands, and Casco Bay’s looked so beautiful with the sun shining on the ledges, cliffs and trees. To our starboard ran the long thin line of Cape Small in the distance, with Halfway Rock, Jewell, Cliff,
Hope, Long, and Chebeague Islands. On our port hand were Portland Head Light, Ram Island Light, and Cushing, and Peaks Islands. Catching the last of the flood tide we motored up Hussey Sound, past Cow and Great Diamond Islands, around Clapboard Island and into the mooring field at Falmouth Foreside. The voyage was over.