25 Oct - Port Washington to Cape May
New York City viewed from the east, through the Throgs Neck Bridge
All good things come to an end and we departed Port Washington, heading south towards the sun (well, the warmth, really) on 24 October. We had the tide with us as we motored west through the East River, enjoying the views of Manhattan and then the Statue of Liberty as you pass under the Brooklyn Bridge. Off Ellis Island we unfurled the mainsail as we prepared to sail down the harbour, past HMS QUEEN ELIZABETH lying at anchor there.
The United Nations Headquarters
An interesting collection of architectural styles with the iconic Chrysler Building in the background
Here, our problems began. It was quite windy and somehow we got the unfurling wrong. The bottom of the sail appeared just fine, but a batten got jammed about halfway up the mast and the technical term for what emerged is a ‘bunch of bastards’. It didn’t help that the water is not very deep, there were barges moored all around and a fleet of harbour cruise boats, ferries and water taxis were heading in every direction. We managed to sort it over the next hour of patiently tacking backwards and forwards, adjusting the outhaul tension, the halyard tension, trying to wind the sail back into the mast, unwinding it, gybing, avoiding the putty, other vessels…
[Overall, we’ve been pretty happy with our Selden in-mast furling system. As a racing purist, I would not have chosen it, but it has been very easy to operate short-handed, we’ve had remarkably few problems and the new North mainsail is a thing of beauty… so I think anyone wondering what rig to install in an ocean-going yacht should give this combination some serious consideration.]
The Statue of Liberty appears under the Brooklyn Bridge in the East River
By the time we were sorted, we had made ground south of the carrier and with a steady 30 knots of wind blowing as we approached the Verrazano Bridge, we were more interested in reefing than trying to get back up the harbour to take a good look at the ship. Suffice to say, she looks BIG and she was anchored right in the middle of the harbour, making a fine statement of British Naval power to our American friends. Just a shame that there were only two helicopters ranged on that massive flight deck: I look forward to seeing her with a squadron of F35s up there!
HMS Queen Elizabeth at anchor in New York harbour
We headed out to sea and east of Sandy Hook. The entrance to New York harbour is surprisingly shallow; once inside, it’s really deep, but in the approaches there is a dredged channel which we could not stray too far from. Once we were about four miles offshore, we turned south towards Cape May. With three reefs in the main and genoa, we flew. The log touched 11 knots on a couple of occasions but we needed to slow down as we wanted to enter the harbour there at first light. Overnight, we gradually reduced sail down to a tiny genoa and got our speed down to six knots as the wind blew strongly from the north west. The sea wasn’t too rough though as we were reasonably close to the shore and by dawn we were off the harbour at Cape May with a decision to make.
Cape May lighthouse
Should we stop at Cape May for 24 hours, or press on up the Delaware River with the tide in our favour? The last time we transited the Delaware River back in July, we found it pretty dreary. It is shallow, so you are increasingly constrained by the dredged channel as you head north, the tidal streams run quite strongly and the wind is often ‘on the nose’ – requiring long periods under engine ploughing into short steep seas. The weather forecast for Friday was for lighter winds from the north east, so if we waited, we might even sail up the river. Cape May is supposed to be quite a pretty Victorian resort. But if we waited, we might run into a nasty storm forecast for Friday night/Saturday morning.
Manhattan – thank you for some great Escapades in 2018!