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Heading Home

By Anne Clement

May 15

When you spend as much time cruising as we do, there is an eagerness that creeps in as you get nearer to "home". I know, we live aboard and we are always home, but the American part of the family is clustered mostly in the Providence, Rhode Island area and we started to count the days as we sailed down the Delaware River. We breezed through Cape May and were ready for a little rest by the time we got near Atlantic City.

There are some special people who care for cruisers there. The inlet has breakers each side and the gambling casinos are all on your left as you enter with care following the buoyed channel. Just before you get to the bridge, you make a right turn keeping close to the port side of the tiny inlet into the lagoon and using a rising tide, if you are smart. Sometimes the tiny channel is buoyed or has little sticks to guide you, but we usually just touch here and there as we let the tide take us in. This year we entered sideways much to the amusement of the police boat.

Once inside, there is good holding and the next thing that happens is that Jim Wilcox arrives in his big rowing skiff. This is a brightly painted boat he built from a lot of photographs he took of one like it he saw in Portugal. The sweeping lines, sturdy construction, and healthy shape respond well to Jim's strong stroke. He just loves rowing, but he also loves cruisers. And he took us over to the grocery store, off to buy gasoline, had us in for a meal, and we shared a lot of happy time with Jim and his wife Pat overlooking the lagoon with Peace IV out there at anchor. Some people just know how to be happy and Pat and Jim are like that. I know they have trials and tribulations like everybody else, but they know how to rise above it and find joy and spread it all around. Next time you pass that area, go in to the lagoon, anchor, and nose around Jim's boat. He did a great job building it. And share a little joy with our friends.

Leaving Atlantic City in the morning, we had a reasonable forecast, but the last 25 miles to Sandy Hook in the entrance to New York Harbor, we encountered thick fog. There was no way we could see harbor channel buoys even when the radar said we were in the channel, no way to see the big ship traffic that always goes in and out of there at all hours and in all weather. And there was no choice but to get in around the hook to anchor.

It was a great day for little electrons, and we had the GPS chart plotter going, the radar, depth sounder, Nev was plotting positions every 15 minutes on paper charts just in case we lost power, I kept the VHF radio going and we listened out for other boats. We named the moving radar targets and discovered that "Fred" was a pair of sail boats just ahead of us. I never saw "Thumper" but figure he was a freighter in the main channel. We went in just outside the channel to be safe.

The chart plotter is not reality. You must remember that. The little boat shape on the screen is most likely at the stated latitude and longitude, but sometimes there are areas of the electronic chart on the screen that are incorrect so the little boat sails across what the screen says is dry land. Sometimes the channel is not where the chart says it is and the chart plotter can never see other boats or dangers. But using it along with radar is pretty good. The radar is based on reality. I was seeing a pair of dots and another pair of dots about where the GPS said there were channel markers, and Nev had his paper chart with a boat shaped piece of Blue Tack which he kept moving along and we talked about what we were doing.

We saw nothing until we were well around the hook and preparing to anchor. It was 2 in the morning, bitter cold, and we were glad I had put a mark on the chart plotter screen where we intended to anchor. There is a bit of space between the maze of fish traps and the cable area where the holding is good near the Coast Guard flagpole. There was no way we could have found that in the fog. A hot cup of cocoa, put the boat to bed, and hit the sack.

I remember the days of fog in New York harbor in the old boat before we had radar and before chart plotters, back when you just got the basics from the Loran C and were grateful for it. Modern electronics are wonderful. It is hard enough even then and keeping all aboard our boat safe is important.

This all brings up the problem of the weather forecasting. It has been wrong almost every day this trip. Really seriously wrong. I have been sailing a long time now, and I know they have lots more information these days for forecasting, but the climate changes are happening fast and the data base they use for predictions can't keep up. Sailors need to be extra careful to be ready to cope with wide fluctuations in weather. That is one of the nice things about this boat. We have the large size boat so the waves are relatively smaller. We can carry the batteries to run the radar, VHF radio, GPS chart plotter, depth sounder, etc. We have the wind generator, the solar panels, and very rarely a small petrol fired generator. We take our time, check with each other, and ease our way along through stormy weather, fog, heavy rain, whatever. Caution, is the base, practice carries the rest of the way. Always I thank Nev for keeping the engines running right with oil levels topped up, batteries checked, electric connections clean and tight, and I make sure we have the charts, pilots, tides, and strategy well thought out in advance. We double check each other. No room for pride there. We do it together.

June 2

After a flurry of family visiting, we started to phone around to find a marina to haul us out and hit a solid wall of refusals. This one wanted to do the work (high price, of course), that one had no room, another feared lifting a large, flexible cat, and one claimed nearby spray painting would drift onto us. I got so upset I cried, could not sleep, felt sick to my stomach. Hanneke and James wrote to reassure nervous lift operators but they still refused. We tried to get a crane but marinas did not want that either.

I finally made the mental breakthrough. THIS IS A WHARRAM! Surely it is built for independence! We can thumb our noses at marina restrictions and high costs. We can use the beach for free! The tides are 9 feet north of Cape Cod and Peace can stand "on her own two feet". We even have Wharram friends up that way. So we will soon head north and do our work independently. #%@& 'em!

Ann and Nev

Peace Four

© Anne and Neville Clement, 2006