Windspiel Does New England

New England Cruise on Windspiel a Pearson 35' Sloop.
By Chuck and Renate Beers with Richard Cusick.
July/August 2002

We left as planned, on Saturday, July 20th and returned home on August 13th, after we dropped off our faithful crew, Richard Cusick, on August 4th in Newport, RI. Windspiel arrived in our home slip at Maryland Yacht Club about 13:30 After an anticlimactic, very fast trip up the Delaware River from Cape May, NJ, we spent the last night in the Sassafras River. Our engine had given up it’s ghost just outside the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal... Thank God for small favors.. Sputtering at 1.5 - 2.5 knots we dropped the hook at Betterton on the Sassafras in near darkness. I never knew there were so many crab pots bobbing just above and just below the water surface that we felt we had to avoid at all cost.

The trip north went pretty well on the way up. Our original idea was to sail directly from Cape May to Martha’s Vineyard, but late in the afternoon of our first day out of Cape May, when the wind was already SE 20, the forecast said that winds and seas would build during the night to 25 with 4-6 foot seas, and winds would turn NE in about 24 hours. Enough Cruising World stories have depicted weather being worse than predicted or weather arriving sooner than predicted to make us decide to turn left and aim for Sandy Hook. Since Helmut, our ST4000 autopilot doesn’t do well downwind - especially in 20+ kts with 4' seas - we hand-steered through the night in 2 hour shifts. Although we had planned to stop at Sandy Hook for the day, Reed’s Almanac told us the tides were in our favor, so we headed under the Verrazano Bridge, passing the Statue of Liberty at 7 AM, and, after dodging the high-speed ferries in NY harbor, shot up the East River, past Roosevelt Island and the sun-lit United Nations building, through Hell Gate at 10.4 knots. We arrived at the Stuyvesant Yacht Club on City Island, NY at 9:30 AM. A couple of days for repairs, and overnight stops at several ports on Long Island Sound brought us to Block Island on Saturday, July 27th. Motor-sailing through The Race against the tide is an experience. Richard was exhilarated; Renate was concerned.

We spent Sunday sight-seeing on a bicycle ride all around the Island with sumptuous lunch at a beautiful hotel overlooking the old port. Monday, we left for Martha's Vineyard and arrived in Tisbury in the afternoon. We spent Monday night on a mooring in Tisbury (you have to take a mooring if you want a protected anchorage) and then sailed over to Edgartown to take a mooring over there on Tuesday and Wednesday evenings. On the plus side, there are a lot of beautiful traditional sailboats of all sizes; on the minus side (for me), you are moored with 400-500 other boats, very close together. On Wednesday, we sailed to Nantucket and arrived there in the early afternoon. That same afternoon we checked out the town, did our laundry and then on Thursday went to the Whaling Museum. We really enjoyed the excellent program and displays at the Whaling Museum. It should not be missed. Later that day we bicycled to Sconsit and back. Sconsit is on the southeastern most corner of Nantucket and the 20 mile or so round trip is mostly on dedicated bike trails. There are many excellent bike trails on both Nantucket and Block Island. They should not be missed.

On Friday, August 2, 2002, Windspiel starting westward for the first time as we left Nantucket to begin her trip home. We motor sailed through Nantucket Sound with the wind on the nose, but had a very nice sail down Vineyard Sound to Cuttyhunk. This island is the southernmost of the Elizabeth Islands which form the boundary between Vineyard Sound and Buzzards Bay paralleling the New England coastline; year round population 28. After an afternoon hike around Cuttyhunk, we set out in the dinghy toward Windspiel looking forward to our usual evening "happy hour" and another great meal aboard. Just as we arrived at the boat, we saw Obsession, a P-424 out of

Newport owned by Ray Cormier and his wife. Unfortunately all moorings were taken by the time they arrived and so they tied up to another P-424 inside the protected harbor. During our quick exchange, we each said that we would maybe get together later depending on the weather. The NWS had predicted 60 knot winds. As it turned out, threatening weather soon arrived, so we secured the dinghy and motor. The 60 kt winds stayed on the NE mainland. It was late when the weather finally blew over, so we had to pass on an invitation to join the Cormier's for a visit on Obsession. Ray sails out of Newport and had very kindly arranged for a mooring for us to use on Saturday in Newport. On Saturday morning Ray stopped by for a brief visit before we departed. He is a frequent contributor to the Pearson-Sailnet forum and also belongs the Chesapeake Pearson Club.

After taking leave of Ray, we headed for Newport, arriving at the mooring off New York Yacht Club in the early afternoon. Newport Folk Music Festival!! Yikes.. Boats anchored all over the place with not enough scope to securely anchor. Chuck and I had spent a few days last Spring by car in Newport so we were not eager to mingle with the crowds. We spent a peaceful evening on the mooring just below the New York Yacht Club, our last one with Richard. Early Sunday morning we dropped Richard off at the Newport Yacht Club dock from where he took a fast ferry to Providence and a train back home to Baltimore. Since Richard’s youngest daughter was to be married in 2 weeks, Mary, his wife had left stern orders for his return. No ifs or buts. We hated to see him go. Richard was jolly good company and his sound engineering counsel much appreciated.

In very hazy - say FOG- we motor sailed south out of Narraganset Bay towards Point Judith, the Harbor of Refuge on the eastern most point of Long Island Sound on the Rhode Island side. This area can exhibit frequent fog, debilitating tidal currents, and of course massive waves from the open ocean.. Europe? Since we had timed the tides to carry us westward our trip was only a little white knuckling. We followed a rabbit (sail boat barely visible in front of us) past all marks to the entrance of Watch Hill. There, boats were greeted by very swift counter currents, the US Coast Guard and Tow Boats standing by to render assistance?!. That will give you confidence! Hah!

The fog had lifted somewhat as we coasted past the Stonington breakwaters to anchor in quiet waters. Not, however, near the breakwater where the Northern Waterway Guide said as it was filled up with moorings. We found this to be the case almost everywhere. Here, almost as a reward, our friends Elaine, Ray , Kalle and friend Amber met us for a sumptuous dinner. Though sad that they could not join us for a few days of gunk holing on Long Island Sound, we spent a lovely evening together, promising to meet at New London the next evening. We did meet in New London where we sat hunkered down to let some mighty blow lose it’s fury. When the dinghy, tied securely to the side of the boat, goes airborne, it’s time to sit tight and wait out the blow.

Let me tell you about Nuclear Sub Marines; they can give you heart palpations in a hurry! So it was the day we left for North Port on our way back west on Long Island Sound. We had just hoisted anchor, checked charts, radar, GPS and were headed for the channel that leads under the busy Rail Road bridge when we called the bridge tender inquiring as to how long the bridge would remain open, whether we would have enough time to make it through the raised bridge span... His reply was quite stern: "Captain, I would not worry about the bridge, it’s the Sub coming down on you I would worry about. I’d get out of the channel in a hurry if you don’t want to get run over." Ouch!! So we gunned the engine out of harms way. Never having seen a Sub close up, it was a sight. Crew with machine guns at the ready standing on the visible shiny black body and turrets. Sub escorted by Navy or Coast Guard ocean tugs and marine police. 2-4 miles straight out the Sub vanished.

Our nerves at high alert, we navigated out the channel, past old light houses to open water. After an overnight stay outside old Saybrook in the bight next to the outside break walls, we had a long cool motor sail all the way to North Port on the Long Island’s north shore. The heat wave had broken for the first time this hot summer and a cool breeze made for beautiful sailing. Here we met Dee & Ed, our sister in law and Chuck’s brother, for dinner at a local pub. North Port comes to life after our bed time and the mosquitos come alive, so we did not linger, though it’s a quaint little town known to most of our friends as the 10K Cow Harbor Town from way back.

Saturday August 3, 2002, we started our sail back in earnest. Again, Chuck had consulted faithful Reeds for favorable tide and current information at Hell Gate at the head of the East River in the Bronx. Without the tide with us our little sailboat would not make it down the river to New York harbor. We made it to Hell Gate at the appointed time dodging a fleet of sail boat racers under spinnaker off the Kings Point Merchant Marine Academy. From there on it was hell bent for leather - a 20 kt wind bucking the tide - past numerous bridges, high speed ferries, the Statue of Liberty, out to the ocean. Wow! An experience not to be missed. However... here a somewhat difficult decision had to be made. Go ahead despite waves and wind much higher and stronger - and from the South, not Southwest - than predicted, or wait for 3-5 days for more favorable winds and weather to go south. We went, Renate had to get back to work.

Windspiel and Helmut held up beautifully despite the shattering pounding off steep waves into 25+ headwinds. Not being able to maintain speed was most frustrating and the question arose.. will we have enough fuel? At this high consumption, even the additional 2 Jerry jugs may not suffice, and sailing would not get us south, not for a long, long time. So, south we went again dodging ocean freighters, tugs with barges and pesky fishing boats.. all night long. We stood 2 hour watches during which I practiced my whole repertoire of German and English Christmas/folk songs to keep me company. Nobody could hear anyway.., so what!.

Off Atlantic City, in bright sun shine the motor died and the extra fuel was added. Cape May at 16:00 Sunday afternoon was sheer terror. Huge fishing boats returning from all day tournaments.. at high speed and monstrous wakes. Fighting opposing tide with standing waves and 25 knot winds was exciting to say the least. Taking on fuel at Cape May topped all expectations. No room to turn, with running tide..

Thank God for a good night sleep to quiet nerves. In all we had a horrendous experience. A repeat will have to wait our nerves have settled down. A lot.

This is what Richard had to say: "I have to say Windspiel is a happy ship. The boat is seakindly and moves along nicely under sail and power. Chuck and Rena were a very enjoyable couple and were very kind to me. I will especially remember our mealtimes; they took turns whipping up very tasty meals, and apparently love to do so. They had a well stocked larder and reefer; we had fresh fruit and vegetables every day and good wine with dinner each night. I think we ate out twice on the whole trip! I loved it, and am ready to go again."

Thanks Richard.