Sunday, October 17, 2010

Blind or Stupid, It's All the Same

New York NY to Elizabeth City NC
Elizabeth City, NC
2010 10 17

After the great sail down the East River we anticipated gentle conditions for our transit of the New Jersey Coast from New York to Cape May.  Naturally the forecast was a bit off and an unanticipated low make a cameo appearance in southern New Jersy, just enough to move our winds from the  forecast 10 knots south west to a revised 30 G 35 knots out of the west. 

We were getting used to this.  Environment Canada forecasting in Nova Scotia was dreadful.  NOAA forecasting from  New England south had paralleled Canada's quality gap.

NOAA revised its forecast 8 hours after actual conditions manifested themselves.  For eight hours we listened to forecasts telling us winds would be 10 knots while we looked at the anemometer showing us existing wind at 28 to 32 knots.  I guess NOAA forecasters do not look at actual conditions when giving their forecasts. 

That night only two boats travelled South into Cape May.  We were one of them.  It occurred to us that we should take a night at Utch Marina in Cape May.  We needed to recharge after an enervating 24 hours along the New Jersey Coast. 

Utch Marina is very good.  Staff are accommodating, fuel is clean and reasonable, the chandlery well stocked and decently priced, the owner a very decent man.  It is also only 100 yards from one of the best fish store/fish restaurants we have visited, serving fish from the colder waters of the Atlantic, much preferred by Meredith over the softer flesh produced in the life pelagic by the warm waters and easy living of the Caribbean.

Before taking any action we checked the radio weather a last time.  This promised hard sailing for boats proceeding directly along the coast from Cape May to Norfolk, our preferred option, but decent conditions for anyone willing to leave at once to transit Delaware Bay. 

Having had three weeks of hard slogging we were done with that for a bit.  to proceed would require that we pass through Cape May without stopping and keep on plugging up the Delaware.  There being no time for delay we did not.

Our departure was not well timed so far as tide was concerned and we would be subject to an adverse tide through much of the day.  In deciding what to do we were guided by the advice of our old and good friend Benoit  who in answering a complaint from his wife Andre informed her that "I would rather be going somewhere at 4 knots than nowhere at 7". 

We elected the 4 knot option and passed through Cape May without stopping.  An hour later there were a dozen sails showing on the horizon off our stern.

Getting to Chesapeake City about 10:30 p.m.  some 40 hours after leaving Port Washington we tried to find a spot to drop our hook in the small anchorage at Chesapeake City.  The Budget Committee found one but her Curmudgeonly captain could not see how to position the boat.  He demurred.  After discussion it was decreed by Curmudgeon that the boat would continue along the C & D canal to the next river, about 5 nm further along where there would be more room.  Back into the Canal went Meredith.

Two miles out of Chesapeake city there is a simple bend in the canal well marked by lighted buoys.  If only our sleep deprived minds could interpret their cryptic signals.   Curm could not figure out why the red light was on the right side when it should have been on  the left.  The Budget Committee could not figure it out either.  The two zombies on Meredith agreed they had become so confused as to be dangerous.

We reversed course.  To ensure an orderly progress we navigated from red light to red light keeping as far to the right hand side of the canal as depths would allow.

Five minutes ionto the return trip Curmudgeon saw a whisper of a red light directly ahead.  Not remembering any red light in that location he peered further into the dark.  Sadly he was not hallucinating.

Half a boat length ahead, proceeding out the canal just as fast as Meredith was proceeding in was a damn bloody sailboat.

Hard to port went the helm.  The rudder bit fast and hard.  We missed the oncoming boat by a foot.  No more than a foot. 

The other guy never saw us.  There was no one in his cockpit.

I know I have railed in the past at the snooty comments that a constant watch must be maintained at all times and I continue to reply that on the open water a 15 minute scan is adequate.  However travelling a narrow high traffic canal at high speed with no watch is akin to driving blindfolded down the 401. 

Not recommended.

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