09 July 2015

Sailing to New York City

New York City

Port Washington:  "The depth should be ok..."
After a splendid spinnaker run (followed by some reluctant motoring) we arrived in Manhasset Bay Port Washington on Saturday 4 July so that we could rest up and time the passage the next day down the East River in to New York Harbor.  We were greeted by very friendly staff and beautiful docks at Brewer Capri Marina, however, we were surprised to see the sparse depths in the channel through the mooring field and especially up to the docks, even though we were directed to their deep slips.  More on this later.

Working on the blog and checking out our NYC plans.
We celebrated Bob's birthday by going to a nearby restaurant.  River Fish had a lovely location and extremely nice waitress but very mediocre food (I'm being generous).  Bob had a salmon burger that he thinks had trace elements of fish DNA but was mostly a large, dry hunk of breadcrumbs.  We ventured out for a walk and stumbled upon a really cool little Mexican place.  We were also treated to about five different fireworks displays around the perimeter of the harbor - happy birthday USA and Bob!
  • River Fish:  thumbs down
  • Mi Ranchito:  thumbs up
Birthday margarita at Mi Ranchito Port Washington NY (Long Island)
Charts were sparsely marked around our marina and when Bob originally made the slip reservations, he was only mildly assured that "the depth should be ok for your draft".  As we checked our depth at the dock, the tide swing and tide timing, we realized that in actuality the depth was not ok.

Depth while docked at low tide = 4.9 feet.  Our draft is almost 6 feet.  <uh oh>  And we needed to leave near low tide the next day.
We were seeing "4.9 feet" on our sounder at low tide.  Argon was still bobbing so she was not sitting on the bottom (or was in very soft mud).  Bob hung a weight on a string over the side and measured about 6.1 feet, therefore, we still had 2 inches to spare.  Looks like we need to adjust the sounder offset.

Thus, instead of departing near low tide late morning on Sunday the 5th as originally planned (to catch a slack tide in Hell Gate that would be reversing in our favor) we decided to depart much earlier at 0430, two hours before high tide thus with about 5 extra feet of depth and then catch the Hell Gate slack just before reversing against us.  It was nerve wracking leaving our shallow slip in the dark until we were clearly in comfortable depths.

Transiting the East River
The East River has quite a harrowing reputation with mariners.  The waters can churn and well up severely and the current is often more than 5 knots.  The Harlem River pours in to a section at the upper east side that is known as Hell Gate and is particularly tricky with swirling eddies.  There can also be an enormous amount of commercial traffic especially large barges that throw up intimidating wakes.  But traveling the East River is also a beautiful way to see New York City.

Sunrise off Argon's stern after we passed under Throgs Neck Bridge at entrance of East River.
As it turned out, leaving near high tide in port Washington was a much better plan.  The East River current only just started turning against us when we were way down near the Brooklyn Bridge.

Queensboro Bridge and a commuter gondola to Roosevelt Island.
United Nations (with security perimeter) and Chrysler building.
Linda's key ER (East River) points from both our south and north passages:
  • The East River is actually not a river but rather a 14 mile long tidal strait.
  • The original name of Hell Gate was Hellegat meaning bright passage.  (huh?)
  • Preparation and timing is everything:  Know your currents, know your distances, calculate needed speed.  Do not just wing it!
  • AIS (Automated Identification System) is fantastic!  Bob got AIS for Linda for her birthday and it was massively reassuring to know the size and speed of many of the on-coming vessels especially given the many turns and short sight horizon. 
Manhattan Bridge in foreground, Brooklyn Bridge right after.

Lower Manhattan.

Lots of fast ferries.  Gotta stay outta their way.
Short video of southerly East River and Hell Gate passage.....

Commercial traffic during both our passages was lighter than we had expected but this certainly made the trip easier.  Note the large rolling wakes this barge is creating against the current as she passes on our port.
Another benefit of our revised plan / timing for this transit is that we arrived in New York Harbor nice and early by about 0800 and were able to take a leisurely sail before heading to our marina.
Light early morning breeze in New York Harbor.

We headed in to Liberty Landing on the west side of the Hudson where we would stay put for four nights.  We topped off the diesel and found ourselves comfortably tied up before 1000 hours - with the entire day still before us!
View of lower Manhattan from Liberty Landing Marina.
Work, Play, and Visits
Bob did lots of Atlas work Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday as scheduled. (Dan, Bob told me to write this.)  And Linda did some boat chores but also got out and played.
Polishing the deck before setting out to explore the city.

With Bob Dee and Dan at a beer garden in the Financial District.

Watching US women's soccer team trounce Japan in the final World Cup game at the outdoor bar at one of the marina restaurants.
More visiting....
Linda's cousin, Geof, and his son, Anthony, took the ferry over to our marina for a visit and to check out Argon.  Bob taught Anthony some really awful jokes as well as how poop and pee get off the boat.  Anthony was intrigued.
Majorly smart and vivacious 8 year old Anthony.

Linda, Anthony, and Geof.

Bob, Linda, and Geof.

Bob is working, Linda is not.....
So Linda went exploring the World Trade Center neighborhood & museum, the Hudson River Recreation Park, and Greenwich Village.  Lots of walking.

9/11 Memorial endless waterfall in foreground and new transit center (still under construction) in the background.

9/11 Memorial and new One WTC at night.
Small part of the impressive and expansive Hudson River Recreation Park that starts just north of Roosevelt Park.  It has beautiful flowers and trees, playgrounds, water park, basketball & tennis courts, skateboard park, mini golf, lots of benches and shaded tables, etc.  Quite a fantastic stretch.
Washington Park in the Village.

Frappe caffe at Reggio cafe.  So many wonderful looking restaurants in the Village.
After four very full and fun days at Liberty Landing and NYC, it was time to get ready for another East River transit.  We studied the currents and conditions again and set out at 0845 Thursday morning arriving at Hell Gate 10 minutes before slack.  When we emerged from the East River there was scant wind right on our nose so we motored over to City Island, anchored, took the dinghy to shore, and explored a bit.  But then the wind was picking up so we returned to Argon, lifted anchor, and caught a great breeze.  To where, we did not yet know, it was just so fantastic to be sailing again.

And finally we are sailing again - Destination TBD

Destination TBD.

04 July 2015

Sailing New England and New York

Taking Off: Summery 2015

Time to Finally Do Some Real Sailing!

We have been quite sparse with the blogging this season and have featured mainly boat projects. Very cool boat projects in our opinion (Wifi, AIS, Davits) and we have been sailing but mainly just Boston Harbor and loops around the Islands except for a long haul to Newport in May to catch the Volvo Ocean Race whilst in town.  But now, we are in the early days of many weeks on the water - Aaaahhhhh :-).  Linda is fortunate to be entering a six week hiatus courtesy of Biogen's new mini sabbatical program.  Bob will spread out his more modest vacation time from Atlas by taking most Thursday's and Friday's off.

Pre trip dinner with two of the three boys, Jon and Christian

All provisioned with the new dinghy and new davits, ready to go!
Linda spent day 1 (July 1) provisioning, cleaning filters, filling water tanks, and preparing Argon for several weeks on the water whilst Bob hurriedly banged out more programming magic for Atlas.  We aimed to leave between 1400 and 1600 to ensure we could catch a positive current in the Cape Cod Canal.

Working on deadlines and averting craptastrophies.  Can you see the smoke coming out of his ears from all the serious programming?
We left Constitution Marina at 1600 Wednesday 1 July, motored over to Mystic Fuel to top of the tank and began our journey.  Bob was still working as we were underway leaving Boston Harbor.

Note the Bluetooth in his ear.  Bob had a 1630 teleconference that he took while we left the fuel dock.
Our new dinghy (Neon) and new davits with Boston in the background.  

Fantastic wind as we enter this first leg and prepare to sail through the night.
General Principles for this Sailing Trip

  • Maximize sailing to motoring ratio
  • Minimize pre-set "have to be x by y" and let the wind and our moods dictate where we go and when.  This being said, we have the following targets:
    • New York City / Liberty Landing (NJ side of Hudson) 5-9 July
    • Return to Boston approximately 23/24 July for a Tartan event at our marina before heading out again for another 10 days
    • Return to Boston again by 6 or 7 August to prepare to fly to Amsterdam (Joshua's wedding)
  • Relax, reflect, re-energize, and re-connect
Plan A:  (initial leg)
Practice longer haul sailing and associated shift changes between co-captains by sailing non-stop from Boston to Port Washington, NY (~40 hours and well over 200nm; Port Washington is on the western most part of Long Island just before Throgs Neck and entrance to the East River).  However, to stay true to General Principle #1 above we left plenty of time in our itinerary to allow for Plan B.

Plan B:
Wait for wind to minimize motoring - which proved to be needed.  

Boston to Cape Cod Canal was fantastic.  We also sailed nicely for the first many hours in Buzzards Bay, until we didn't.

Bob took the 2000 to 2400 shift while Linda slept bringing Argon to the mouth of the Cape Cod Canal in only 7.5 hours from Boston.  Wind was a perfect 12-15kts out of the southwest.  Gorgeous full moon.

Linda motored through a positive current in the Cape Cod Canal humming along over hull speed at 10+kts while Bob got some shut eye.  We were greeted by the expected headwind and churn coming out of the Canal which served to wake Bob from his rest.  But seas were calm ahead as Linda aimed high into a light SW wind averaging 5kts still under a brilliant full moon.  Sailing alone at night is a mixture of staying extremely alert and being calmly introspective.  

Watching the sun rise while sailing slowly in Buzzards Bay the morning of Thursday 2 July.
Fifteen hours in to our trip, we reluctantly took down the sails and began motoring.  After several hours of motoring, to stay true to General Principle 1, we tucked in to a cove in the western most part of Massachusetts to wait for the predicted better winds.  Alas, the wind data proved faulty and after hauling anchor, we toggled between motoring and slow sailing for many hours (mostly motoring unfortunately).  We decided to fully shift to Plan B and tuck in to beautiful West Harbor at Fisher Island.  

Brilliant sunset at anchor Fisher Island evening of Thursday 2 July.

Linda examined the wind and current forecasts and deemed a 0600 departure to be ideal.  We were both exhausted and slept soundly in this quiet harbor.  Thumbs up on Great Harbor Fisher Island.  

Pajama and coffee sailing 0630 hrs

Close reach in 10kts heading westward in Long Island Sound.

We hit 2000 nm on Argon west of Fisher Island.  We have a similar picture of us form last year (season 1 with Argon) when we hit 1000 nm east of Cape Cod Provincetown.  (When Bob saw this picture, he decided to shave and get a haircut.  See below.)
To prepare for his birthday, Bob shaved and Linda gave him a haircut while underway.  
The sailing from Fisher Island started out great.  We were taking advantage of the current doing 8kts in 11kts breeze close reach with the Genoa.  But then the wind died abruptly, as if someone just turned off the jets.  After motoring for another couple of hours with skepticism on the wind returning, we examined options and set a course for Port Jefferson.  So much for the non-stop long leg (Plan A) but we much prefer sailing over motoring and we still have flexibility in our timing (Plan B).

Port Jefferson Ferry shuttling passengers and vehicles between LI and CT.

Summer cottages dot the harbor.

Shallow Pirate Cove surrounded by interesting and lovely dunes.  We took the dinghy over and explored the dunes.  Really cool place (except for the broken glass that dotted the beach).

Very peaceful night except for a small group partying very loudly until wee hours of the morning.  It was quite comical to note the fitting name of the noisy boat the next morning. 

Happy Birthday, Bob!!!
Newly shaved and hair trimmed for his birthday today, July 4!!
After examining the wind and currents yesterday, we decided to leave Port Jefferson at 0800 for a 30  nm leg to Port Washington Manhasset Bay where we have a dock slip reserved for tonight to celebrate both Bob's birthday and the 4th.  The winds were as expected 8-12kts out of the east - perfect for a spinnaker run so we hoisted right away! We learned that our main is just too big and substantially interferes with spinnaker performance, at least in lighter winds. 

Nope, that's not right.

That's better!  A fantastic 30nm run to Manhasset Bay.
Soon we will be tied up to a dock slip celebrating Bob's birthday, the 4th of July, and the many blessings in our lives.

Below is a track of our journey to date, only the first four days.  Courtesy of Bob's Android and web service thingy.

03 July 2015

Automatic Identification System Installation

Still More Boat Projects: AIS

Linda got AIS for her birthday.

I ordered the Raymarine AIS650 and figured the installation would be pretty simple.  While waiting for it to arrive, I decided to read the installation manual. Ugh - you need a VHF splitter too. This is not some little cheap transformer thing either. It is a powered unit and adds a tidy $260 to the price.

So I ordered one of those.

What is AIS?
Automatic Identification System.  Ok, but what is that? AIS uses VHF to send and receive information about a boat: such as Name, Heading, Speed, Destination, Propulsion, Length and Beam. You can get a receiver only that will show other ships to you or a transceiver which will also broadcast your own signal to other ships.  This is what we got and since we may one day want to visit a foreign port, it required getting an FCC Ship's License. Every ship has a unique identifier called an MMSI number (don't ask).  Argon's is 367679020.

This should have been really simple.  We asked Tartan to put a SeaTalk backbone cable inside the instrument area above the nav table.  I assumed it was there.  It wasn't.  So I had to find another termination point on the backbone and run another cable. Fortunately, there was one in the aft compartment where the steering is. So off to West Marine to see if they had a SeaTalk backbone cable in stock.  Good news: they did.  Bad news(s): it was not quite the length I wanted and they did NOT have a network "T" in stock.  So, back to the internets to order more stuff.

Finally, with all the bits, the installation really did go very smoothly.

And it works.  Now that I have it, I can say that I wish ALL boats had it.  It is very nice to be able to see targets with bearing and speed.  Also, if you have to hail one, you can do it by name instead of "vessel over by blahdi-blah with the blue hull"

AIS On The Internets
There are several phone apps and websites that allow viewing AIS data. I think the way this works is that there is a network of receivers (volunteers?) who pick up AIS and repost it to various central data stores in reasonably real-time. I have not researched this. I could be totally wrong about that. As of this writing, we're still not showing up on the FindShip Android app, but we are now showing up on http://www.shipfinder.com/.  You can type our MMSI (367679020) into the search box and find us.

Update:  13-Jul-2015: we ARE now showing up on at least one AIS Phone App.  FindShip for Android is showing us. I would assume the various iPhone apps would show us too but I will become seasick if I have to touch an iOS device again. You can find us by name or MMSI

Davits and Dinghies

Another Boat Project: Davits

I hate the dinghy.  I like it for the 1% of the time we need it, but the other 99 is just a pain. There's just no good solution for any boat under 100' in my humble opinion. You either tow it, put it upside down on your deck, deflate it and store it, or lose your swim platform or... get davits.

We decided to get some davits from Kato Marine in Annapolis, MD.

The process is pretty simple. You have to figure out where you want them, measure a bunch of stuff and then like all things boating, hand over a few fist-fulls of cash.  I shouldn't be so cynical. Kato was awesome to work with and they made the process very smooth.  Once the order was finalized we waited for the big box of Kato parts to arrive.

Here are some photos of the mockups for measuring

Christmas on D-Dock
Thanks to UPS Saturday Delivery, we had our davits in time to install before our July trip.  The Kato parts are very high quality. We also had some custom designed stuff made for our installation and everything was very well made.

Getting to work
Time to drill 12 holes in Argon's Transom.  The installation actually went pretty smoothly.  We needed to change the location of the davits outboard a bit because of a contour in the interior of the hull. The flat backing plates would not have sat there very well.