Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Trying Times

Today was much better than yesterday. But yesterday was even worse than the day before and I just didn't have it in me to write a blog entry. But let's start on a positive note; we are currently resting at anchor in the tranquil harbour at Cape May on the southern tip of New Jersey. The passage from Atlantic City to Cape may was on smooth seas in gentle winds under sunny skies. This is in stark comparison to the passage from Manasquan inlet (where we sought shelter from our first rough day and engine problems) to Atlantic City, which in fact was not even our planned destination. After weighing anchor we headed to a nearby marina to fill up on diesel fuel to prevent having engine problems again (possible air in fuel line from half a tank in rolling seas?). A motor boat took our spot just before we got there so we were maintaining a holding pattern waiting and wouldn't you know it but we got stuck on a sandbar. It was surprising because we had anchored a stone's throw away but had actually not touched bottom all night. A game of inches! So try as we might we could not get off the sandbar. All we really needed was a motor boat to come by and use their wake to free ourselves but, after being buffeted by passing motor boat wakes all night, there were none to be had when we needed one. We were stuck for only about 20minutes before we asked a nearby motor boat to give us a hand. He did doughnuts around us and eventually nudged us off.

After filling up we got back out onto the ocean and conditions were equally rolley. Cassandra felt seasick and actually went down below to lie on the couch. She stayed there for the next 5 hours, poor thing. I was OK and felt that I finally got the hang of minimizing the turbulence by surfing the waves. Yup, a 35 foot sailing yacht can actually surf down waves, and get a speed boost doing it. Back at anchor we had debated bringing the dinghy on deck for the speed savings (probably about a half a knot faster not towing) but decided to tow it because... well it was a lazy decision, and thew wrong one. About ¾ of the way to Little Egg inlet I heard a snap behind and when I looked behind saw that the primary tow line which was attached to a D-ring in the dinghy's rigid fiberglass hull had snapped. The back-up tow line however was still pulling the dinghy along from the front handle. This handle is not meant for towing and I fully expected it to rip right out and that we'd lose the dinghy. But that handle held and held and I thought we might just get to the inlet with dinghy in tow.

Approaching the inlet I got Cassandra up into the cockpit, life jacket on (I had mine on the whole time). During passage planning the night before this inlet looked relatively easy, there was a lot of shoaling (shallow water) but a definite passage in and the marker buoys to guide us in through safe water. What we saw when we got the however was a different story. Firstly I could not see any markers. Frankly I could hardly see anything because the big waves going over the breakers near the inlet threw up such mist & spray I looked like a boiling cauldron. In additional to the rough seas it was also a flood tide which means the ocean was rushing into the inlet and further amplifying the chaos. I lined up as best I could for the the “runway”. As we came if for our final approach, being buffeted by waves it seemed to me that it was like threading a needle. I knew with the waves coming in big behind us there would be a point of no return. Maybe it was running aground earlier that morning or maybe it was the sense of being alone (there were no other boats around and I still could not see any markers) but my instinct told me to abort. I looked behind to make sure the next wave coming was far enough behind and I pulled a U-turn. Moments after a BIG wave, I'm going to estimate 7 feet, was headed directly for us and I yelled for all to brace themselves. It was the biggest wave I have ever gone up and I bet the biggest Topanga has also. I guesstimate we were about 20 degrees bow up! Sea water came spraying over the dodger into the cockpit and then down the other side we went, burying the bow into the next one (two big waves usually follow each other). We made it through but the wave back out into open ocean but the dinghy's back-up tow line snapped from the force and we looked back to see here washing away. Cassandra proposed we go back for it but I vetoed that beccause a rescue operation in that surf would have been extremely risky to boat and crew.

We were pretty shaken up but only had an hour until sunset and the closest safe harbour was Atlantic City about an hour further. We made a run for it and after getting a bit confused with all the markers there (I almost went into Donald Trump's beach) we finally made it in. Without a definite plan on where to drop anchor we were relieved to see about five other sailboat floating at anchor just after entering. Perfect. We weaved through them and took a spot in front. Passing them I noticed one of them was Brin de Folie, a sailboat we had met weeks earlier in the Chambly Canal who ultimately turns out to be from my home marina in Montreal!! Small world!

We are very sad to have lost the dinghy and I think morale was at an all time low. She was a good little dink and we wanted to go further with her. Not only is it a pretty significant financial loss but also a logistical nightmare now to get a new one. Oh when I think of the hours & hours I put into researching, buying, transporting, registering her. Sigh.

New Life Vest... very fashionable

Take your home and shake vigorously

Table brackets actually sheared apart

If only I had known our time together would be so short :-(

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