129 Parry Sound, ON to Atlantic City, NJ

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Our fogged over windshield was left for later cleaning. It was a moonless night and clouds blocked the stars. On deck we could barely see shore. Judging distance to anchor lights on boats moored around us was impossible in the almost total darkness. We’d clean the windshield at dawn’s first light. Until then we’d run on instruments. Depth sounder, GPS, radar and electronic charts merged to form our electronic window. Checking radar we found one more boat than anchor lights we’d counted. Someone’s anchor light was out and was invisible to all but electronic eyes.

A few minutes work confirmed everything was working properly. GPS sends our next waypoint to the radar. It shows on the screen as a steering guide lollypop; a straight line with a circle on the end; thus the name. The lollypop shows bearing and distance to the waypoint. GPS also sends our current position to our laptop. Odyssey shows up as a little green boat moving over the electronic chart relative to buoys, other navigation objects and the route I planned the evening before. We play the three instruments like a complex video game using the radar to “see” objects ahead and using the waypoint for steering. Our electronic charts show us where we are physically on the water. The depth sounder confirms depths shown on the charts and warns if we enter shallow water.

The anchor came up reluctantly. It was full of weeds. Finally just after 3AM we were on the move heading for the buoys marking Telegraph Narrows. Navigation wasn’t totally electronic. A trip outside with a flashlight let us read the buoy numbers as we passed close by. Thirty years earlier the buoys were harder to find by flashlight. They were made from a log with a weight holding it upright and painted with not very reflective paint. It was nice to see the reflective number on the modern buoys gleaming in the flashlight beam. It’s comforting to know our electronics agreed with the real world.

Somewhere around mid morning we crossed the invisible border leaving the land of friendly welcoming people, chip wagons, and butter tarts behind. By noon we were clearing customs by videophone in Oswego, NY. Behind us, conditions on Lake Ontario worsened as predicted. We’d managed to cross on a bumpy lake that was rapidly becoming too rough even for us judging by the waves coming over the harbor break wall.

Thirty years earlier we’d discovered Crisafulli’s 1850’s Restaurant during one of our first sails to Oswego. The tiny 10-table restaurant filled with antiques became a favorite. Over the twenty years we sailed Lake Ontario we’d return for the wonderful food and good times. During weekend visits getting a reservation was sometimes difficult and we’d eat early or late. Now, after a 10-year absence we went back and walked into a time warp. At first glance nothing had changed. It’s still a wonderful mix of antiques you pass through upon entering. Joe is still the bartender and now also the chef. As we settled in we met Marge his sister who’s now helping out. She is in her 80’s and he is in his 70’s. Joe cooked us a special (not on the menu) dinner. The dining room was dark except for a light over the table in front of the street window so we ate at a table near the bar. We invited Joe and Marge to sit with us while we ate. Since we were the only patrons it wasn’t a problem. Dinner finished, Joe invited us to follow him to the dining room where he turned on the lights, sat at the grand piano and played and sang while we danced. Later over after dinner drinks he lamented that the world had changed and no one was interested in an elegant dinner out. He’s still running the business to give him and Marge a purpose in life. As we left another couple had just come in. We left saddened seeing why “you can’t go home again.”

At the Oswego and Erie Canal junction we turned west. For us it was wonderful to have a convenient way to make a second family visit by boat. We headed for Newark and Macedon from where we could make family visits while living aboard.

The e-mail couldn’t be right. My cousin Norm Stevens Jr. had died of a heart attack. My mind immediately rejected that. He’s five years younger than me and in much better shape. A reread let the sad truth sink in breaking my heart. The cousin I’d grown up with was gone. At one time our two families shared a two story flat. In the summer Norm vacationed with us, and I vacationed with him and his mom and dad. We’d known each other since my first memories and enjoyed each other’s company. We made a sad trip to Detroit for the funeral and soothed our sadness a bit by swapping stories about Norm with our shocked and saddened families. Sadly we realized that we’ve reached the age where it will be deaths instead of weddings that pull our scattered extended family back together for a major family event.

 Flowers from the Lockmaster

Flowers from the Lockmaster

Ruth complimented one Erie Canal lockmaster on the beauty of his hydrangeas and their unusual colors. We’d touched on his favorite hobby and learned about the work he put in to achieve the wonderful blooms. We soon had a beautiful bouquet in the cockpit. Our flowers were quickly spotted by the next lockmaster. He left and quickly returned with some of his flowers to add to our collection.

Norrie State Park, 30 miles north of West Point on the Hudson River became our temporary refuge to wait out Hurricane Isabel at a safe distance. A rental car opened the rich history and beauty of the Hudson River valley for exploration. The Culinary Institute of America (CIA) is just down the road. We couldn’t resist and called ahead for a necessary reservation. Food, service and presentation at the CIA are outstanding. Lunch was wonderful, and we’ll stop again heading north in the spring to try another of their many restaurants. The following day we stopped again, this time at their bakery and breakfast bar, to pick up sweet rolls for breakfast.

Val Kill—Eleanor Roosevelt’s home away from Hyde Park won us over. Its simplicity stood out in sharp contrast to the huge Roosevelt Hyde Park mansion and the other mansions that line the Hudson.

Our tour of West Point was interesting. Tourists can no longer wander the campus because of security concerns. To see it we had to take a bus tour that worked out well since it’s a hilly campus. The campus itself and the views of the Hudson are beautiful.

Innisfree Garden was a serendipitous discovery. It’s an undiscovered jewel of teacup gardens, fountains, and waterfalls. The fountains range from tiny trickles, to mist fountains making a tiny part of the garden appear foggy.

We turned in the rental car, as Isabel got closer. The marina closed all access and then began stringing lines to hold floating docks in place. We felt more secure on the fixed dock, but ran extra lines to hold Odyssey off the dock. All our canvas came off in anticipation of 50-knot winds. To our relief Isabel went further west. We never saw any significant winds or tidal surge. With the canvas off, the cockpit got a good scrubbing. At first light on Saturday morning we were on our way.

The Atlantic Ocean showed two faces. Running about 3 miles offshore we had a smooth ride over rollers with such a long period it was difficult to tell how high they were. Looking inshore it was a different story. The New Jersey shore was shrouded in mist and obscured by huge breakers visible through binoculars. The rollers slowed down and grew vertically as the water shallowed. The beach was being pounded by angry 8-10 foot surf.

Taking advantage of the great offshore conditions we skipped Manasquan and continued south to Atlantic City and an after dark arrival. The Atlantic City inlet is a bit of a challenge in the dark because the glare from all the casino lights makes it difficult to pick out the navigation marks. However, we were running the reverse of the route we’d used in the spring so the entry would be straightforward.

Confusion, shock, adrenalin, fear and white knuckles gripping the wheel all hit at once. Our route into Atlantic City was taking us directly into huge pounding surf. Casino lights back lighted angry surf directly in our path and made it appear all the more dangerous. We were already too close; those long period rollers were starting to mound up leaving shallower water in their valley. The depth sounder alarm went off adding to the confusion and tension. It didn’t help that we were tired after running 187 miles in 14 hours. We slowed to sort things out and lost steerage in the growing rollers. Attempting to do a quick turn by reversing the port engine and increasing the starboard engine resulted in the port engine stalling. It wasn’t a comfortable moment.

The port engine restarted, and we headed out to sea. A mile off shore we were back riding smoother rollers trying to figure out what had gone wrong and sort out entering the channel. As we calmed down I realized we’d come north in calm conditions and had cut close to shore across an 8-10 foot area to the north of the channel. That area was now the surf zone we’d almost entered. Our next task, regaining our bearings and finding our way through the entrance quickly brought us back to normal and into the entrance. Radar provided a surprise. The anchorage was empty so it was simple to pick a spot and get a good hold. Over a glass of wine we reviewed what had happened and what we should have done. Before turning in for the night I reviewed all the route information we’ve saved and made modifications to take us further offshore before turning to run the coast. Ruth figures the changes are good heart attack insurance. So do I.

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