November fourth dawned, and I woke up with an election hangover. I was ready to put my screens down and do something productive with my time. Thankfully the weather looked like it would cooperate and leave me enough of an opening to pop out into the ocean for a day.
I got myself and Sylphide ready for sea, and threw off the lines. Our slip was buried fairly deeply into the tight and twisty marina, and I was glad that I’d waited for the wind to die down. Even on a calm morning, it took a bit of time and backing and filling to wiggle our way free. We managed to get out without giving anyone a reason to shout at us.
We poked our nose out into the Hudson, found the coast to be clear, and hauled around to the south. We passed all the usual world-class scenery and landmarks. The Battery, Ellis Island, and the Statue were all where I’d left them. I bobbed and weaved through the field of sleeping cargo barges on their moorings, and marveled at just how skimpy some of those mooring lines seemed to be.
The traffic in the harbor was manageable, but required a bit of maneuvering to avoid. There was a tug/barge unit coming out of the Kills that I needed to miss, and a couple of light tugs milling about smartly. The ever present menace of the Staten Island Ferry was there too, of course.
I passed a handful of tankers being lazy at Stapleton anchorage, and ashore, an unwelcome reminder of the current state of the world. I then found myself surrounded on all sides by a shoal of thousand and thousands of fishes.
My smelly new friends escorted me all the way out past the Verrazano Narrows Bridge. Fort Wadsworth kept quiet and didn’t shoot at me.
Once clear of the Narrows, life slowed down. The traffic thinned out, the bay opened up, and I could comfortably step away from the helm long enough to take that bathroom break I’d been dreaming about. We cleared Sandy Hook, and entered the wild blue yonder of the North Atlantic Ocean. The nearest land to our east was Portugal, 3,428 nautical miles away.
Closer to home, the forecast had called for a southerly breeze in the mid to high teens. The seas that were supposed to come with it, were predicted to be steep and choppy two footers. That was true in the morning, but they kept on building as the day went on. eventually we were bashing into four footers, and running the windshield wipers more often than not. It wasn’t anything we couldn’t handle, but after a while, it started to get uncomfortable. It also reduced our speed to the point where I wasn’t confident that I’d be able to make it into Barnegat Inlet before dark.
I started looking for a closer destination, and figured that Manasquan Inlet would be a good escape route. I buried my nose in Active Captain to find out what my options were for the night, and happened to look up just in time to see some sort of sea mammal blowing off in the distance. Then I saw a few more. I thought maybe it was a pod of dolphins at first, but then I saw the big dark back of what could only be a whale. Google tells me they were most likely Humpbacks. They were too far away to get on film unfortunately, but I was delighted all the same. In all of my travels, I think this was my first whale sighting. They swam along parallel to my course for a few minutes, before departing with a big ol’ wave from one of their assfins. It was marvelous.
After the magic of the encounter wore off, the reality of discomfort settled in again. The seas and wind weren’t getting any less unpleasant, and the windshield wipers weren’t getting any less necessary. It was far from unsafe, but the motion was getting tedious. We even had our very first bell ringer, which for you landlubbers is when the seas get rough enough that the ship’s bell starts ringing itself. I decided to put in at Manasquan.
It was mid afternoon when we entered the blessed shelter of the breakwaters. The current was at just about max ebb, and was screaming out of there at some stupid pace more than three knots. Thankfully Hoffman’s marina offered me a nice easy T-head dock, just off the channel and parallel to the current. With a little help from a very accommodating dock dude, we laced ourselves in for the night.
The dock was within pissing distance of a busy light rail bridge. Turns out, I’d traded one sort of bell ringing for another.
I was heartened to learn that some of my salty new fishermen neighbors had also called it quits early due to the weather. I rested easy in the knowledge that I wasn’t just being a big pantywaist. We stayed there for two nights and waited for smoother seas.