The next day dawned sunny and warm, but the wind continued to blow out of the south. This meant that the seas outside would likely be no better than they had been outside of Cape May, and were probably a little worse. So, I’d be spending another day inside, which was no great hardship. I’d done this stretch inside on the way south in the late fall, and it was a cinch.
By ten o’clock, the anchor was up, and we were underway from Brigantine. The entrance to the lagoon is plenty deep enough, but is famously skinny. Sylphide is about 12.5 feet wide, and felt like she took up the whole channel. The local knowledge says that ‘if you feel like you can reach out and touch the grass on the north side, you’re doing it right,’ so that’s what we did.
There’s a nice little beach on the south side of the entrance, and there were lots of folks out swimming and throwing frisbees. It looked like fun. Part of me wanted to run Sylphide up on the beach and go for a swim, but there were miles to be made, and I didn’t feel like crashing again, even if it was on purpose.
The day’s travel couldn’t have been a more welcome contrast to the day before. There were no opening bridges to wait for. There was way less traffic, and way more water. I don’t think I worried about running aground once all day. It was positively relaxing.
We meandered into the Barnegat Inlet area around three that afternoon. I’d hoped to anchor in the same spot I had last time. Being very late fall, It had been deserted, quiet, and beautiful. That was absolutely not the case this time, though. The traffic had picked up quite a bit as I neared the inlet, and the anchorage was busy AF. There were only seven or eight boats actually anchored there, and there was still room for more, but with all of the weekend traffic zigging and zagging around, It felt like I’d be anchoring in the middle of a highway. So, I decided to find another spot. Option number two was a little south of the first, and was quite a bit smaller. It was also already full of boats, and was home to a fleet of big ass tug boats, so I bailed on that one as well.
I decided to backtrack a few miles, and find a spot on the western shore of Barnegat Bay. I picked a place just north of the entrance to the Forked River. I wasn’t sure what kind of wind protection I’d get, and the forecast called for wind all night and the next day, but that turned out to be a moot point, as the wind died right off shortly after I set the hook.
It was a beautiful spot. Half of my horizon from northeast to southwest was open water. The other half was low marsh and wooded wilderness. There were some expensive looking houses dotting the shoreline, but none nearby. Aside from some fishermen casually floating past, I had the place to myself. Shortly before sunset, a cruising sailboat called Amygdala dropped her anchor a few hundred yards away, and she turned out to be my only neighbor for the night. The anchorage was dead quiet and flat calm all night long. I slept like a stump.
I’d half expected to spend a couple of nights in that spot to wait for a weather window, and I really liked the idea of staying a little longer, but the next morning I awoke to more flat calmness. I checked the forecast for the day, and found that my weather window had come early. It was going to be a perfect day for an ocean hop up to New York Harbor.
I got an early start, and we were underway by 0730. An hour later, and we were riding the last of a fair current past Barnegat Light, which I think is one of the finest looking lighthouses around.
Once we cleared the piers, we were greeted by an absolutely blue bird day. It was sunny and clear, and not too hot. The wind and seas were low and calm, and the ride was magnificently comfortable.
I even managed a feat that I’d been attempting for ages. I actually caught some playful dolphins on film. The video is silent because my color commentary was too… uhh… manly. Yeah. Manly.
It would have been impossible to be in anything other than a great mood. It was one of those days that just fills your soul up, and makes you immensely happy to be where you are, doing exactly what you’re doing. All the doubts and anxiety that I’d felt in this exact spot back in the fall, seemed like something I’d read in a book. Something that belonged to somebody else. I was exactly where I was supposed to be, and it felt great.
By around 2:30 I was nearing Sandy Hook, and the entrance to Lower New York Harbor. I hadn’t really decided whether I was going to anchor inside the Hook at Atlantic Highlands, or if I was going to keep trucking up to the anchorage behind Lady Liberty. My memories of that anchorage weren’t all that great. Despite the world class scenery, my impressions were of a rolly, sloppy, uncomfortable mess. Atlantic Highlands would no doubt be less busy, but it also would have meant a lot of backtracking, both today and tomorrow. Ultimately I decided to press on to Liberty.
I was so glad I did. The big commercial traffic was light, and easily avoided. I managed to get across the Staten Island ferry route without tangling with one, and the rest of the ferries that had plagued me with tidal wakes last time were mercifully absent. The ferry traffic to the statue, and the helicopter tours were also nil. Even the ever present airline traffic that always wreaths the city was nowhere to be seen. It was beautifully quiet, particularly for New York Standards. There’s one silver lining to the lockdown at least.
The sunset and the city views were so marvelous on my first night, that I decided to stay for another. With only two cruising days left until I reached my summer home port, I was in no hurry, and was happy to be a part of the New York skyline for a little longer.