Wharram World > Peace Four > Norfolk to New York

Norfolk to New York

By Anne Clement

Leaving Norfolk, Virginia at mid morning, we caught the ebb tide out to the Atlantic for an overnight passage to Cape May, New Jersey. This bye passed the fascinating Chesapeake Bay and the Delaware River which we will explore in the autumn when they are less buggy and we have more time.

With John navigating, we moved the boat as fast as we could in the dying wind in order to take advantage of this short weather "window" to make a little more progress northwards.

The night watch was very cold and I had to find a spare second blanket and some winter spare clothes for John while Nev and I got out down jackets. There was finally no wind at all and the morning showed that ethereal light where the sky and water seem to be made of the same material. We motored in the calm picking out lights and markers to note in the log.

Anchoring frenzy began in cold rain at the change of tide in Cape May so we were unable to determine where the other boats had their anchors and all the boats were wandering about at the whim if the changing and swirling current. We got soaked and badly chilled before we finally settled just near the Coast Guard station on May 21 and I am amazed that no harsh words were spoken by such tired, wet, and miserable sods as us. Hot tea never tasted so good!

It was four days before we could go again due to the wind being wrong so we met the nice Canadians on the other Boats and I saw my first pocket mail making a connection in a public phone booth. So easy!

On the 25th of May, the forecast was not really encouraging, but we left any way planning to use the radar in case of fog getting thicker than predicted. Later we regretted that decision.

Our plan was the same as always in that area... just keep well enough off the coast to be clear of the shallows, but well in shore of the shipping lanes. I had made that trip so often alone and with crew, I did not think it would be a problem. But, while I once did it in a snow storm, I had never done it in such thick fog.

At the end of the passage is New York Harbour and that is just about the busiest shipping area in the world with ships also going up the Hudson River and through Hell Gate to get into Long Island Sound.

We had a night to remember with fog and rain blotting out everything and the radio full of tug boats hailing one another on the ship's radio to agree with dots identified from the radar screens and hailed as to estimated latitude and longitude position, then agreeing to pass port to port or starboard to starboard with a cool, "one whistle or two, Cap'n?". We kept mostly out of the way near shore because I know that kind of navigating would not be easy for me (it takes skill and practice to do it well), but one terrified cruiser had the hubby at the radar down below and wife with the hand held radio up at the helm unable to speak with one another due to their engine noise but smack dab in the middle of the shipping lanes. They were rightly terrified so I called and suggested they come nearer shore like us and they did find it easier then. She was just a blob on our radar screen after that.

Visibility worsened throughout the night in rain which was heavy at times. We found Sandy Hook's welcoming and protective arm with gratitude just after daybreak on the last of the flood tide into New York.

We spent the next day resting and dried out the boat and clothing so all was back to normal for the trip through THE CITY on the 27th.

I have always gone through New York with my nerves jangling due to the heavy shipping, strong currents, and the sight of all that sky line representing the most un-natural life style imaginable. In twilight it sparkles with light, at dawn it appears dream like, but underneath it all, I know that humans are not made to live in places like that. Certainly not this one. But I must admit that it is a dramatic scene, it looks exciting, and I do know many people who love it. From the water it is ok, but this country girl stays off those streets.

We kept eyes moving in all directions to stay clear of shipping on this work day morning and pushed the last of the ebb tide as we headed towards Manhattan. At that point the flood took us whizzing through Hell Gate past the U.N. and the dreadful prisons of Riker's Island and into Long Island Sound.

We needed to buy Petrol for the outboard engines but could not understand the thick Bronx accent on the radio giving directions, so we continued beyond dear old City Island to Oyster Bay. This is in the posh North Shore where Rockerfeller and Vanderbilts lived in royal splendour decades ago and modern day rich folks still live beyond their stress level. Anchoring for free in such places gives us budget minded cruisers a laugh and we tucked into a quiet corner with good holding for the night. It was a lovely place of tasteful gardens (not a gnome in sight) and woods.

I'll continue with the last leg of our Maiden Voyage in the next letter.

© Anne and Neville Clement, 2003