It now actually feels like spring, bordering on summer, just as it should this time of year. The days are warm, the nights are staying in the low 60s, and we can leave the hatches open all day and night unless it rains. The water temps are also in the low 60s, keeping the cabins at a more consistent temperature so the walls aren’t damp with condensation every morning (less mildew). The screens are in place on all hatches, portholes, and the slider because with the warm days come the bugs. There’s usually a breeze on the water, so even when it’s been low 80s on land, it’s still comfortable on the boat.
We had a lovely couple of nights at anchor in Atlantic Highlands, NJ after we transited through NYC. It was a great anchorage only about a 5 minute dinghy ride to a public dock in a huge marina that bordered a very walkable town that even had a full-sized grocery store less than a mile from the marina. We were exhausted after the excitement of the NYC transit, but we still went ashore late afternoon to scope out things. My folks decided to go to the 5:15 Mass, so we killed a little time with margaritas, chips & salsa in a local bar, then Dave & I returned to Lady so he could take a nap (the rest of us had napped between NY Harbor and the marina). We went ashore to pick up my folks and ordered take out from a Thai place to eat aboard. The next day we bought groceries and showered and then relaxed aboard for the afternoon in preparation for the next leg of our journey, an overnight run from Atlantic Highlands down the Atlantic side of NJ all the way to Cape May at the other end. We started the trek around 9am Monday, but before leaving we fueled and watered at the marina. It was my first docking attempt, with Dave coaching me. The dock hand said I did well, most people slam into the dock. I had a good coach 🙂 . This overnight run held another first for me, my first solo watch. It was blissfully uneventful and the conditions were perfect. I came on shift to relieve my Dad at 2:00am just as we were approaching Atlantic City, so I got to enjoy the lights. There were large vessels a few miles off but on parallel courses to us, so I was able to leisurely play around with our AIS and radar, learning how to identify ships and their speeds and courses. Dave relieved me at 5:00am just as the sun was rising behind us.
We arrived at Cape May Harbor and anchored just east of the Coast Guard station around 10am. It was a warm, almost hot, sunny day. We dinghied over to a yacht club nearby to ask if we could tie up at their dock for a bit. There was nobody around to talk to, so I guess that meant we weren’t in anyone’s way 😉 . We knew there was a nature center of some sort nearby, so that was our target, just to stretch our legs. It was a little gem of a place, and free. It’s definitely meant for children, but we’re all just big kids, so we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves for about an hour. They had tanks in their “aquatic lab” with local sea life. There was a local fauna “garden” to walk through. There was an osprey nest complete with an osprey who had just caught a fish! Their main building had a shop downstairs and an exploration room upstairs. It was small, and full, but well organized with activities for kids of all ages, all sorts of stuff to look at and touch. We made a few purchases and left a cash donation in support of their largely volunteer efforts to run the place.
On Wednesday morning we dinghied ashore to Utsch’s Marina, which kindly let us tie up there for the day. We took an Uber over to Cape May Point State Park. This was another free adventure with another cool little nature center, a small museum, a beach, and nature trails. We availed ourselves of each of these, including a short 1/2 mile loop trail by a pond (too hot for a longer walk!). We opted not to pay $10 to climb up the 199 steps to the top of the light house; the free stuff was good enough for us. It was a lovely morning. We took an Uber back to the docks for lunch, then dinghied back to Lady before the predicted afternoon rain. We spent a couple of hours planning the next segment of our trip and had just poured ourselves some rum when the anchor drag alarm went off.
The winds had picked up to around 30 kts, gusting to 40 kts while we were planning, but the rain hadn’t started yet. Even though we had spent a very secure night on anchor in this exact spot the previous night, it turned out the holding ground was not good for the anchor/wind combination this second night. So we paired and donned our headsets (much easier bow to helm communication) and Dave, Dad & I went up to reset. The current and wind were both strong and opposing each other, so Dave steered while Dad & I worked the anchor (a plow). We tried to reset the plow anchor (the main one on the windlass), but it didn’t set. Then we tried the fortress and it didn’t set. Then the really dark clouds were over us, the winds were sustained at 30-40 kts, there was thunder in the distance, and the rain started. So Dave had us put the fortress back over to pay out its own line which was still cleated to the bow, while we simultaneously dropped the plow again. Dad and I got back in seconds before the torrential rain started. We grabbed Dave’s foul weather gear for him to wriggle into so he could man the helm in case we dragged again. Fortunately both anchors set this time, and the storm passed in about 20 minutes. The winds died back down shortly after. Dave came in and dried off, we finished our rum (and had an extra finger), and resumed our evening. The next morning when we hauled both anchors they came up pretty clean- only tiny spots of mud, no grass. The guides and charts indicated good holding in mud in this anchorage, so we best we can figure is that the bottom has changed since the charts were published, or we were on the edge of the mud in less consolidated bottom that probably included sand and a little light mud. So having the plow and fortress out the second night was useful.
While it was a stressful experience (and another first), I’m glad to have had it while my folks are still aboard (okay, and right next to a Coast Guard training station). If this had happened the first time with just me and Dave aboard, I’m not sure I would have been able to manage the fortress by myself without hurting my back, and I don’t have any experience maneuvering the boat in those types of conditions so Dave could have handled the anchors. Now Dave & I can plan how to deal with this situation in the future when it may be only the two of us on board.
You will be glad to know that we’ve had two lovely days and nights at anchor since, in a couple of rivers off the Delaware Bay. In fact, I’m writing this as I enjoy a beautiful, warm morning with a lovely breeze. And now I shall post this and read in the hammock for a bit before lunch.