New England escapade

Carol Rechner

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From Chesapeake Bay to Long Island Sound and back again

Tom Campbell and Linda Sweeting invited me to crew on their Beneteau, Aurora, for a two-week trip to New England with nine other Beneteaus.

In June 2018, we departed from the Summit North Marina on the Chesapeake & Delaware Canal. Instead of the anticipated two-day sail, the trip turned into a two-day slog to Newport, Rhode Island, as the winds had changed 180 degrees from the pre-departure forecast.

That night, we passed closely by a tug in the fog. We didn’t see the tug or its navigation lights; we only picked it up on radar, which also displayed the new wind farm off Block Island, Rhode Island. Having just updated the charts on my copy of OpenCPN, I could see the wind farm on my chart, but no one else did. (Yes, this is a plug for OpenCPN. You can update charts as frequently as you wish.)

In New England, mooring balls are the order of the day. Be advised that slips are scarce and require reservations, so practice picking up a mooring ball before you go. There’s an art to it. Our group did lots of advanced planning, so we had slips … most of the time.

While in Newport, we visited one of the “cottages” belonging to Consuelo Vanderbilt. Then we sailed around Point Judith, through the narrow channel to the east of Fishers Island and on to Mystic in Connecticut. Thoughts of the mythical sea monsters Scylla and Charybdis came to mind as a commercial fishing boat came through the cut at the same time. It was my first time seeing a red and green buoy used to mark lanes.

Mystic is tourist central, with lots to see and many places to stay. The Amtrak station makes it a great place to change crew, and you must visit the phenomenal Mystic Seaport Museum. The Charles W. Morgan, a whaling vessel, is a walk-on exhibit. During our visit, the Lady Maryland was tied up to one of the visitor wharves, having sailed up from Maryland with a large crew of school-age children. The Mystic Seaport Museum staff worked on repairing a Viking longboat while we were there. The museum has a building devoted to Norse explorations in North America.

As we motored down the Mystic River, we passed the picturesque town of Noank , Connecticut, on our way out to Long Island Sound. We continued down Long Island Sound to Milford, at the mouth of the Wepawaug River, about 4 miles east of Stratford, Connecticut. The Waterway Guide describes the harbor as “crowded” with good marinas, which was an understatement. Instead of a simple mooring field, the town has fields of floating docks tethered to the bottom at both ends to reduce movement. Each dock can accommodate two boats with no swing. Our group leader managed to secure slips, which were a little short but workable.

Next, we sailed to Oyster Bay, New York, home of Teddy Roosevelt. Tom enjoyed the trip but wished for more wind. After entering Oyster Bay Harbor, we attached to a ball in the biggest mooring field I had ever seen. A launch servicing the area took us ashore for dinner.

Afterward, we headed to New York. Traffic filled the waterways. Seemingly oblivious to the four sailboats passing through, two seaplanes practiced water landings in the East River. Ferries were everywhere, and boats buzzed around us. We crossed the Hudson to Liberty Marina and took the ferry to Ellis Island, where the immigration buildings comprise an extensive museum and research center. The ferry stops at the Statue of Liberty before returning to the marina. As luck would have it, a protestor had climbed the statue and caused the authorities to evacuate the island. They held our ferry until they could pack on as many people as possible. Linda got a great shot of two police helicopters buzzing around the statue and a marine police vessel (one of many) circling the island. We did not find out what all the commotion was about until we returned to the marina and watched the news.

After the Fourth of July fireworks, we headed south a day early to avoid bad weather. Linda encountered a fishing vessel off the New Jersey coast during her night watch. The vessel showed no navigation lights and wasn’t broadcasting AIS, which shows that it pays to be vigilant and have radar. When our group approached, the fishing vessel lit up like a Christmas tree. We rounded Cape May, New Jersey, in the dark, heading through a cut between sandbars near shore. The lights from the freighter anchorage on the bay’s far side, near the Delaware shore, can be quite confusing because they appear closer than they are.

Lightning struck all around us as we traveled up the Delaware River. Luck was with us, however, as we didn’t encounter any storms. We motored into Summit North Marina on the Chesapeake & Delaware Canal in the morning and took a well-deserved nap. We had a great dinner at the marina and sailed back to Annapolis the following day. Although we had a great trip, we needed more time to sail and explore the seaport towns we visited.

Carol Rechner

Carol Rechner started sailing on the Chesapeake Bay when she was 11 and currently enjoys sailing with friends as part owner of a 40-foot Leopard catamaran. A 20-year member of Annapolis Sail & Power Squadron/5, she currently serves as squadron secretary.

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