Tuesday, October 30, 2012


John cut his West Coast tour short to rush back to Portsmouth Virginia and prepare Moonshadow for whatever Hurricane Sandy might have in store.

The forecast had Sandy making landfall pretty close to Moonshadow and showed a WIDE swath of dangerous wind.

After stripping sails and canvas; rigging extra dock-lines and fenders; fitting anti-chafe gear on lines; placing boots, foul-weather gear, and flashlights in strategic places for quick excursions topside; and verifying the insurance policy premium was paid-up, there was nothing to do but watch the barometer...

...which fell 50 millibars to 970 as Hurricane Sandy hauled North along the coastline to our latitude.  This is the lowest barometer reading John has ever seen, but still not as low as the center of Hurricane Sandy, which plunged to 940 millibars upon landfall.

Deb, still in California, had to reschedule her flight back to Moonshadow for two days later as most flights here were cancelled.

But here in Portsmouth, and especially at our VERY well protected floating slip at Ocean Marine Yacht Center, the most wind we had was in the mid twenties with a gust or two into the thirties.

After all the anticipation John got so bored, he suited up in his foulies and went for a walk to see how friends were faring in their nearby berthing.

The combination of hurricane storm surge and high tide brought the Portsmouth water level above the wharfs.  

The trawler pictured here is "aCappella", owned by Karen and Jeffrey Siegel who run the cruising website www.activecaptain.com.  We have relied on their excellent site to find anchorages, dinghy docks, marinas, fuel prices, and more since we first heard about it from another cruiser in South Carolina.

In normal times, the pilings along a wharf are high enough to tie dock lines to and to bear against with the yacht's hull using fenders and fender-boards.  But here, for cosmetic reasons the High Street Mole designers cut the pilings short (note dock lines disappearing into the water), so Aussie friends Andrew and Claire Payne had to rig long lines clear across the mole, to keep their sloop EYE CANDY away from the adjacent pilings which were nearly below the waterline.

Meanwhile, at nearby Tidewater Marina where another friend, San Diego Yacht Club Staff Commodore Wytie Cable, was aboard his beautiful 47 foot trawler HAPPY, the fixed piers were a foot under water stranding anyone aboard their boats.  When John arrived, the water had receded to just level with the pier's decking.  Small waves caused geysers of water to explode through the gaps between the wooden planks.

Wytie shared some before-and-after photos that tell the story of the storm surge here.

By the way, Wytie's last boat was a sailboat named REALITY CHECK, which serves as a good segue to all this talk about storm surge.  See, the surge here was only about 4 feet above the maximum astronomical tide.  Up in New York City, where Moonshadow was happily tied to the 79th street Boat Basin just a couple of weeks ago, the storm surge was 13.5 feet.  The damage there is in the millions and lives were lost.

We find ourselves profoundly fortunate to have Moonshadow here, snug, safe and sound in Portsmouth, Virginia.  The news further north nearer Sandy's landfall is tragic.   

Our thoughts and prayers are with those whose lives have been turned upside down by this storm.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

 If it's Saturday, This Must be Denver

It was really something to arrive in New York City by boat.  In fact, I think it just has to be the best way to arrive, as you see the skyscrapers from miles away and watch them grow until you find you're gliding past the United Nations, the Empire State building and the Statue of Liberty.  Like Boston, we found ourselves stepping off of Moonshadow right into the middle of New York City.  

After first anchoring at Liberty Park near the Statue of Liberty, where we walked to a ferry to get into New York City, we moved Moonshadow to the 79th Street Marina on the Hudson River.  From here we could attend a Broadway show that let out at 9:45 PM without worrying about missing the last  ferry at 10:00 PM back across the harbor.  The marina was a very rocky marina, but right in the heart of town.

The Marina is three blocks from Central Park where we did some walking, and visited Strawberry Fields with the memorial for John Lennon, then toured the Metropolitan Museum of Art.  We managed to find out-of-the-way neighborhood restaurants and tried to look like New Yorkers (in Topsiders).

A weather front was forecast to pass through bringing cold northerly winds, but more importantly bringing northerly winds. We planned to depart New York upon the passage of the front and use the forecast northerly to make tracks south to Norfolk, Virginia where we had a place to leave Moonshadow during our trip out west.  

As the late afternoon sky darkened, we motored down the Hudson River past Manhattan and watched the city slip by and into our wake...
 New York City was just as majestic departing as it was arriving

The weather front and the frigid temperatures reminded us that it was time we got to southern latitudes!

The weather forecasters accurately predicted northerly winds but left out the part about 25-30 knots and rain!  At least the passage was fast.  After sailing 285 windy and rainy miles south from New York City, in 33.5 hours (an average of 8.5 knots), we made a night time arrival in Norfolk and dropped the anchor in a quiet cove at 02:00.  After a few hours sleep, we moved Moonshadow to her current berth in a marina in Portsmouth, Virginia, just across the river from Norfolk.  

This brings to a close six and a half months of cruising the East Coast from Key Biscayne to Maine (and half the way back) with the following highlights:
  • 3,439 nautical miles sailed.
  • 27°40' southern most latitude - Key Biscane, Florida
  • 44°21' northern most latitude - Somes Harbor, Maine
  • 64 ports of call:
  •      46 anchorages for 99 nights
  •      16 marinas for 77 nights (includes 5 weeks in a boatyard)
  •        2 mooring balls for 6 nights   
  • 461 hours under way (11% of our time aboard)    
  •   7.5 knots average
  • 15.3 knots maximum under sail
  • 32 knots maximum true wind while underway
  • 46 knots maximum true wind while moored

Next it was time to dress up and head to Estes Park near Boulder Colorado for the wedding of John's nephew Neal Rogers and Whitney Fisher.

Congratulations Neal and Whitney!
We learned we aren't the only people who sweat the weather.  It rained up until two hours before the (outdoor) wedding, but then the skys parted and presented a stunning setting for the ceremony.

Then it was time for some more sailing, this time aboard Legacy in San Diego.  This was the week for the sea trial and survey by Legacy's buyer  from Sydney Australia.  We will miss Legacy and all the many great times aboard.

While in San Diego, we will visit friends and family, get doctor checkups, drive in traffic, play some golf and generally enjoy the best city on earth.  Did I mention a Chargers game?  Ugh!

Then, too soon, it'll be time to say goodbye again and take flight back to Moonshadow, where we have about five weeks in Portsmouth Virginia to prepare for the next leg of our adventure.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012


It might not seem like it, but when you sail down the coast from Cape Cod, you head West, not South.  From Hadley Harbor, near Wood's Hole on Cape Cod, we sailed about 38 miles to Newport, Rhode Island.  When we arrived, we found  Deer Dancer, a 70 foot Deerfoot and the last Deerfoot of any size to be built.  We met the captain who is delivering her to the Carolinas and took a tour below.  She's a great boat.

Newport is the place where they once held the America's Cup regatta, but that's a long story and now there are lots of places that once held  America's Cup regattas including San Diego!  Anyway, back then people with lots of money financed a Cup contender on their own, and Newport was just the place for it.  

"The Breakers"

This is a place with a long history of people, like the Vanderbilts, with lots of money, classic yachts, and unbelievable mansions.  We toured five of the famous mansions of the "gilded age" over two days.   

The "gilded age" came just before the "income-tax age", but lasted long enough to give us these beautiful examples of what to do if we ever get that rich.  It was fascinating to see how the buildings incorporated hidden passages and rooms for all the butlers, and other staff. Mind you, these were just summer cottages used for only eight or nine weeks per year, so they really only needed to accommodate a staff of around 40.

They liked to import amazing trees from far away and plant them around their surrounding acres.

Harold Vanderbilt loved racing big sailboats and did well enough to fill a room at the "Breakers" mansion (pictured above) with trophies.  He defended the America's cup three times.  This room also features the wooden steering wheel that was fitted on several of Vanderbilt's yachts, including Ranger, his 134' J class sloop in which he defended the cup in 1937.  The names of all the yachts this wheel steered are carved in the wheel.

The weather became blustery and threatened rain, so we hired a car and drove along the coast to Mystic Seaport in Connecticut.  Here they feature old fashioned trades used in shipbuilding like barrel making, blacksmithing, rope making, rigging, you name it.  You can walk from one shop to another and witness the actual making of old stuff (only new).  We found this great anchor for Moonshadow.  It's the only one we've seen bigger than ours!

They even had a really big block for lifting really heavy stuff like other really big blocks!

We had been getting really hungry for a good sail and found the conditions just right on our sail to Shelter Island.  The East-South-East wind built to the mid twenties and we had over 30 knots true wind* for about an hour.  This built a short steep sea which we were able to surf and now we have a new (for us) maximum water speed record of 14.5 knots.  The distance of 55 nautical miles was covered in just 6 hours.  Like!

Fortunately for us, the wind was well aft so we were comfortably gliding along, but had we wanted to go the other direction, it would not have been fun at all.

Below is a video of what it's like aboard Moonshadow doing 9, 10 and 11 knots.
Click on the arrow to play, then click the box [ ] in the lower right to watch full screen

As we entered the East end of Long Island Sound on our approach to Shelter Island, the tide began to ebb against the wind and the seas got considerably meaner looking.  We met this tug heading the opposite direction and watched him take waves clear over the bridge.

It got really cold and rainy so as soon as we anchored, we closed up Moonshadow and went below.  The next day the wind had blown itself out so we motored 90 miles west to Port Washington on the west end of Long Island Sound and did some laundry.

Then it was on to New York City.  You get there through the "East River", which is not a river at all, but rather a "tidal basin" between Long Island Sound and New York Harbor.

The tide runs through a narrow section called Hells Gate at up to five knots, so you want to navigate this area on a slack tide, which for us was 1130 on a beautiful blue sky day.

As it happens, "slack tide" lasts for just a few minutes, so we had a three knot push into New York Harbor after we cleared Hells Gate.

This is the way to arrive into New York City!  You begin to get a scale of the size of Manhattan's sky scrapers two hours away and the view outside the front porch just gets better and better.

We were also lucky to arrive just after the United Nations had a big meeting which closed the East River on the Manhattan side of Roosevelt island.

East River, Manhattan, United Nations, Brooklyn Bridge, Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty.  All these places you've heard of all your life are suddenly sliding by at 11 knots and you find yourself dumped into New York Harbor where the East River and the Hudson meet.  One look at all the AIS targets on the chart plotter is all you need to know this is the BIG CITY!

Ellis Island

Lady Liberty

The view from the channel into 
Moonshadow's anchorage

Thanks to that swift current in the East River, we arrived early enough to still do some sights including Wall Street and Times Square.

You see all kinds of people at Times Square!!

We finally took the last ferry across the harbor where Moonshadow was quietly waiting for us.  The walk along the waterfront from the ferry offered a beautiful view of the city and Miss Liberty.

Next day we hurried to the ferry for an attraction we really wanted to see. Words cannot describe, so please check out the video below. It speaks for itself...
Click on the arrow to play, then click the box [ ] in the lower right to watch full screen

* true wind:  When you stand in the parking lot and measure the wind, that's "true wind".  When you stand on Moonshadow which is sailing at, say 10 knots (I like saying that!), and measure the wind, you are measuring "apparent wind", the combination of the true wind and the wind you add or subtract by moving through the air.  Our instruments can factor out the boat's speed and direction to display "true wind".