Picture: Lone Star at the end of the rainbow while still on her mooring at SYC just minutes before heading south for the winter.
Our last day at Shennecossett Yacht Club (SYC) was a busy one! We had a nice visit from our son and his girlfriend as well as a godson and his visitor from Germany. Delivery of homemade chocolate chip cookies from Tom’s sister were much appreciated and are still being enjoyed! We had a lot left to do before we could leave: clean out our car, take it to the car wash, (we intend to sell it – anyone want a 2015 VW Passat TDI with under 15,000 miles? contact us by phone or email please!), pickup last mail at P.O., last grocery stop for fresh stuff, stow lots of gear, get ocean passage safety gear out and setup e.g. jacklines, life vests with integrated harnesses, and tethers to stay hooked to the boat; put on winter mooring, bring summer mooring to shore, put folding dinghy on deck, disassemble and stow it and the gear in it; finally, stop at fuel dock for fuel and water then head out to sea for two days. Consequently, we left at 3:35 PM on Saturday, September 22, 2018.
We knew we had a small weather window to make the 225 nautical mile offshore passage to begin our journey south for the winter. We had North winds from a front that just passed and another storm was coming to the shores off Cape May and along the New Jersey shore on Monday. As long as we left by 4PM and maintained 5 knots of speed, we expected a good passage. We each started with a 2 hour watch as we both still had things we wanted to complete when we were off-watch. For example, Anita made up snack boxes for night watches. We do not like opening wrappers at night, the crinkling noise can be bothersome and cumbersome. Ours included dried fruit, nuts, fig bars, and an unwrapped dove chocolate in our snack box. At 8:00 PM Saturday, we began alternating 4-hour watches. The person on watch is making sure we are on course, at a safe speed, and avoiding all obstacles; floating, moving or stationary.
We had a good cell signal all the way out to Montauk so were able to send a few updates to family and friends. We enjoyed steady downwind breezes and the quartering seas were far enough apart to be a gentle rolling motion. Downwind is an easy point of sail on a multihull, because they do not heel or wallow. Surfing down waves is a thrilling acceleration and a gentle up and down motion. We were two days from the full moon, however it was mostly cloudy. We each saw peaks of the moon a few times. There were very few boats on the water; some commercial fishing vessels and a few big ships around the shipping channel entrances to major cities like New York and Atlantic City.
It was around Atlantic City that the wind started to build and stay above 20 knots, gusts were higher. The electric auto pilot was having a real hard time steering Lone Star at 9 knots. On Tom’s watch, around 1:30 AM on Monday, we decided to drop the main. That improved our comfort, allowed Auto to continue steering, and we were still sailing above 7 knots under small jib alone. We arrived at the Delaware Bay entrance at daybreak to a VHF (radio) weather forecast of small craft warnings for winds, rain showers, and 6-8 foot seas. No, we didn’t beat the storm, but we have weathered storms before and we were prepared for this one. They say Delaware Bay can be a nasty place and this time it was. When the current turned against us in the afternoon we pulled out of the channel and headed for the nearest cove on the windward side (NJ coast) of the bay. Nantuxent Cove near Money Island was a welcome and empty place to drop our anchor, enjoy a hot dinner, hot showers, a few quick calls or texts, and a good long snooze. We are so appreciative of a safe passage, each other, and the partnership we have in handling the boat.