The price of a good night’s sleep

I’m pretty sure that by the time we leave Annapolis, we’ll be broke. This place is like a boating Disneyland full of south-bound cruisers and friendly salesmen ready to make all your dreams come true…for the right price.

Before we even arrived, Ryan was in the market for a new anchor, and he was determined not to leave Annapolis without one. Having a “big, stonkin’ anchor,” as he put it, would mean not having to spend money in marinas, and it would give us the freedom and confidence to anchor wherever we wanted on our way south.

Our anchor, which we inherited with Hideaway, is a 22 lb. Danforth-style “traditional anchor” with 20 feet of chain and 100 feet of line, which has served us pretty well around the harbors of New York and New Jersey. Therefore, I wasn’t totally sure why we needed a new anchor, but according to Ryan, “no one in their right mind sails to the Bahamas with only a Danforth.” So, we were definitely buying a new anchor – we just needed to work out which of the three existing “modern” anchors to buy so we could retire our Danforth to the role of back-up anchor.

The three choices in question were the Manson Supreme, the Rocna and the Spade.

I had a lot of questions about the pros and cons of each, but the main question was why were these “modern” anchors so freakin’ big? I mean, don’t things typically get smaller as technology advances? But even as I said that, I realized if there’s anything you don’t want to be small or lightweight, it’s probably a stinkin’ anchor. I guess that’s why Ryan was doing the research, not me.

And since we were doing research, we decided to shake things up for the anchored cruisers of Annapolis by taking our Danforth over to Back Creek to see how many times we could drag anchor in a really tight space. The answer was three.

After politely watching us fumble around for over an hour, drifting closer and closer to his boat, our friendly neighbor Mike aboard Bay Tripper kindly advised us not to reverse on our anchor in such soft mud as we’re bound to drag. It seemed obvious when he said it, but it would appear we’re sometimes oblivious to the obvious.

Eventually, we started looking around at the other boats in Back Creek and we noticed a few things. 1) None of the other cruising boats had a Danforth. 2) All the other boats’ anchor lines hung straight down from their bow, which meant they had a lot more heavy chain than we did. 3) Our boat was the only one with a ton of line out, and this made the other boats nervous. We know this because Mike asked if we would kindly move a bit further away from him.

But Ryan was reluctant to put down less line because he had little faith in our Danforth. Hence why we needed to get shopping.

In the end, we spent two days visiting West Marine and a few smaller chandleries, doing our research on types and prices. West Marine was by far the most helpful, and they even offered to match any deal we could find online. So once Ryan decided to spring for the Rocna 20 (20 kg.), he showed West Marine the price offered on Defender’s web site, and they honored it.

So, why did Ryan go with a 44-lb. Rocna over a Manson Supreme or Spade (or Danforth)? Here are some of his reasons, based on his research:

  • All three “modern” anchors are known to cut into reeds and grass fairly quickly, securing a good hold in any type of anchorage, unlike the Danforth, which is really only good in mud.
  • The Manson Supreme appears to be a Rocna copycat, and statistics show it’s slightly less speedy in grabbing a hold. This wouldn’t be a dealbreaker, except it’s also only $60 cheaper than the Rocna, which wasn’t enough of a discount to bother going to the Manson if the Rocna was also available.
  • The Spade is a good $250 more than the Rocna, making price a big consideration. But, also, distributors of Spade are hard to come by, which makes us suspicious. If they’re so good, then why aren’t more stores carrying them?
  • Rocna’s current, Canadian production line of anchors have an excellent reputation. Their anchors originally started in New Zealand, but there was a period when they got a bad reputation for manufacturing poorer-quality anchors in China.
  • We had drinks with a helpful and experienced cruising couple called Dan and Jaye aboard their boat Cinderella, and they swore by their Rocna 20.

For all of these reasons, we decided to buy the Rocna, along with 94 feet of 5/16″ chain (only because they didn’t have 100 feet), 120 feet of 5/8″ line, shackles, a buoyed trip line, and a snubber.

And we bought it from West Marine in Annapolis because they bent over backwards to help us out. Aside from giving us a discount based on Defender’s prices, they also hand-delivered all this equipment to our boat because we didn’t have a car. We are definitely not in New York anymore.

So, what’s the price of a good night’s sleep? $1,100.00, apparently. And only $377 of that was the actual anchor. If you’re thinking of going into the business of robbing boats, my advice is forget the anchor – go straight for the chain.

But the hope is that this $1,100.00 will buy us hundreds, if not thousands of restful nights in free anchorages and a good many sunsets out on the open water.

Read Turf to Surf’s testimonial of the Rocna 20 anchor on Rocna’s web site.

New meaning to “leaky bladder”

I will admit (though not to Ryan) that I get great satisfaction out of fixing things on the boat. In my mind, boat repairs often equate to a better standard of living (especially if you live on your boat), even when the improvements are minor.

So, aside from those rare and overwhelming instances when the entire boat is undergoing repairs (like when we were stuck in Port Washington), I actually really enjoy sinking my teeth into one manageable project. Are you reading this, Ryan? One project…don’t get all excited now.

Unless we’re talking about varnishing, that is. Having shiny wood does not make my life better. In fact, it eats up an entire sunny day, on which I could be outside sailing, running, hiking, riding my bike or doing anything, really, that doesn’t require wasting a gorgeous afternoon spiffing up a few decorative bits of wood.

But I digress.

My project today was not varnishing; it was to fix our leaky aft water tank, the Nauta 52-gallon water bladder that led us to discovering our bilge pump didn’t work.

Our leaky aft water bladder.

I’ll also admit, though, that my first response was not to fix the bladder. It was to price up a new one as soon as we got to Annapolis. But then I learned it would cost $500 to replace what is, essentially, a big rubber bag. And that just seemed crazy. Even by New York spend-hardy standards. After all, we do have a cruising kitty to maintain now.

So, I ripped open my shirt to reveal the SHT on my chest (Super Handy Tasha, of course. What were you thinking?), put on my cape and got down to it.

Or I made a few phone calls and got through to a company called Intra, the U.S. distributor for Nauta (a French company), and asked them for some advice.

Intra suggested a dinghy repair kit for hypalon dinghys, like this one, which we picked up at a local inflatable boat shop in Annapolis. Considering the kit only cost $40, it was well worth a try.

So today, while Ryan worked with an engineer on our alternator, I set up camp on the dock of Bert Jabin’s Yacht Yard (next to some super shiny 60-foot Oysters whose owners would probably not bother to patch up an old water tank) and got down to sealing up six holes in our bladder.

The results remain to be seen (we need to wait 24 hours before using it), but I’m convinced this is our ticket to a) saving $500 and b) gaining 52 gallons of water storage. What more could I ask for (apart from maybe a 60-foot Oyster)?

Anyway, if you have a leaky water bladder, or even a leaky dinghy, this was an easy and very do-able job for even the un-handiest of folks (i.e. me).

All you need is:

  • A hypalon inflatable dinghy repair kit with enough patches to cover the number of leaks you have
  • Medium-grain sandpaper
  • A cheap, rough-bristled paint brush (cut off the bristles so they’re about an inch long)
  • Isopropyl rubbing alcohol
  • A cloth
  • A heat gun or good hair dryer

Instructions:

  • With sandpaper, rough up hypalon patch and leak area
  • Using isopropyl rubbing alcohol, clean leak area and patch. Repeat 3 times on both
  • Dab a small amount of glue (comes with the patch kit) on leak area and patch. Use brush to spread a thin layer covering entire patch and entire leak area. Wait 5 minutes to dry. Repeat 3 times on patch and leak area
  • Once glue has been applied, put patch on leak area and apply heat to patch. Be careful not to melt the water bladder itself. Use a cloth on heated area (so as not to burn yourself) to press down on patch until fully adhered
  • Let dry for 24 hours

Note: The next day, we filled up the bladder and discovered we missed one little leak. So the fix required one more patch and another 24-hour wait. But as far as we can tell, it worked! Hideaway’s bladder is no longer leaking!

One patch out of six

Super Handy Tasha and her un-leaky bladder

Just another port: Annapolis MD

Approaching Annapolis MD harbor on Sunday, Ryan was grinning like a 12-year-old boy and shouting, “We’re here! We’re here! We’re in the sailing capital of the world!” (Our little joke because we Americans love saying we have the biggest, greatest, most important of anything in the world.)

The sun was shining, our sails were set to a close reach, and I was quickly running through all the right-of-way rules in my head, as there were easily 20 sailboats we needed to avoid hitting before pulling into Spa Creek.

The last time we were in Annapolis was two years ago, when we came down to the Boat Show to drool over catamarans and 40-foot monohulls we couldn’t afford, as well as to buy nautical-themed crap. We were still new to sailing, so we bought a lot of things like plastic cups with nautical flags on them, cat food dishes with “cat” spelled out in nautical flags, and duffel bags and pillows made of recycled sails. If you own anything that says “Captain” or has an anchor on it, you can probably sympathize with boat show over-indulgence. We got it out of our system at our first show; after that, we focused on more practical things like winches, sails and navigation systems. And, okay, maybe the odd bottle opener shaped like an anchor – they’re just so irresistible!

ryan charlie

Ryan looks like a kid at Christmas as we pull into Annapolis.

But I never would have imagined two years ago that we would arrive to Annapolis by boat one day. Even I couldn’t help but jump up and down like a 12-year-old as we pulled in. Or maybe I was just giddy because I could finally remove my thermal underwear and ski hat. (We still aren’t far enough south, as far as I’m concerned.)

Once we were moored in Spa Creek, we awaited the arrival of some D.C. area friends who had come down for the day to pop champagne and celebrate with us. They weren’t on board Hideaway long before they asked us how long it’d been since we’d started our journey. Ryan and I automatically said, “maybe a few weeks?” Then we wondered out loud, “Wait, what day is it? Sunday? Really? We left Tuesday? That can’t be… Really?! We’ve only been gone for 5 days?!!!”

What seemed like the impossible two years ago, had only just taken us five days to achieve. What?!

So, it turns out a dream as big as sailing around the world might be little more than a bunch of smaller dreams strung together, starting with goals like get to Cape May; then get to Delaware; then get to Maryland; and eventually, get to the Bahamas…or wherever. Maybe it’s only ever about getting to the next port.

And maybe that’s really the answer to the question of how to achieve any colossal dream: if you’re feeling scared or overwhelmed, don’t worry about the big picture. Just get yourself to the next stop, whatever that may be. The rest will follow.

Approaching Annapolis, MD.

Approaching Annapolis, MD.

Hideaway in Annapolis (photo by Justin Dent)

Friends of Hideaway: Ryan Bates, Captain Ryan, Justin & Anastasia Dent

Hideaway on Annapolis city mooring (photo by Justin Dent)

Change of course: Chesapeake City, MD

One of the things I love about sailing is that change is constant.

On land I sometimes fall into a rut because of a need to feel in control. And minimizing change is one way of being in control.

But in sailing, decisions are made in reaction to an endless number of unexpected factors, which are completely out of your control and may alter your plans on a daily or even hourly basis. You may need to pull into a safe harbor because of a storm. You may have to weather the stormy seas because there’s nowhere to hide. You may have to change your sails to accommodate the wind. Or you may never get to where you’re going…

…because you found a tiki bar. With live music. Next to a free overnight dock.

ryan the deck

The Tiki Bar at The Deck in Chesapeake City, MD

That’s right. We had plans to sleep on anchor for the first time in Sassafras, Maryland on Saturday night, but before we even got to the end of the C&D Canal, we saw the “Free Dockage” sign in front of a lively-looking tiki bar.

Now, if we were not already accustomed to change, we might have made the terrible mistake of passing up this unique opportunity…just because we had another plan.

Luckily, that tragic possibility was over-written with a big bowl of The Deck’s famous “drunken clams,” a few red sangrias and a valiant attempt at dancing Gangnam Style to a Bryan Adams song.

To all of you kindred spirits out there: May you often be thrown off course by something unexpected and wonderful.

hideaway chesapeake city

Nothing like a free overnight dock to lure you in.

A life worth living

I really hope what they say is true — that you can judge a person’s character by their friends — because I have some of the most amazing and generous people as my friends.

Friday night, my friend Elisa came to visit us on board Hideaway, along with her husband Chris and their two adorable kids, Luke and Alice. Elisa has known me practically since birth, since we were born just 3 months apart and we grew up on the same street. This alone would have bonded us forever, but what makes her an incredible friend is her extraordinary kindness and her ability to put anyone at ease with who they are, no matter how unusual they may be.

To illustrate Elisa’s unfailing support, though we hadn’t seen each other in over a year and a half, she showed up to Delaware City with her entire family on a whim, bearing dinner, a case of beer, some hometown gossip and nothing less than total enthusiasm for what we were doing. I know she was looking around our little boat, thinking she was darned glad she wasn’t sailing away in such a tight space. But I also know she was nothing short of thrilled for us because this was exactly what we wanted.

It’s an extraordinary gift to love someone truly for who they are and not who you want them to be. And it’s a quality I admire deeply in Elisa. Perhaps because I think it’s a quality everyone should have a little more of. Including myself.

Ryan at the start of the C&D Canal

Though we had a blast entertaining our first family on board, the success of Friday night’s rendezvous meant that we didn’t quite get up at sailor’s sunrise on Saturday. But we have time to work on that as we travel south.

Before we hurried off to a new port, though, we wanted to make sure we got out for a little jog to see the C&D Canal and Delaware City’s only tourist attraction: the historic military fort. And it turns out we were in luck – we not only got to see it, but we ran straight into a battle reenactment, complete with firing cannons and period uniforms.

Fort Delaware State Park

Ryan is fascinated with quirky Americana, being the foreigner that he is, so he took this unique opportunity to quiz the guys dressed up in uniform about their unusual hobby. The Civil War soldiers were more than happy to tease Ryan about being from “the wrong side” and regale him with tales of their weekend travels to various forts around the country to reenact battles from a myriad of different time periods. We got the impression that it wasn’t the particular war they reenacted or the character they played that was important, as much as it was just to get out there and play somebody in a battle, whether it be an Indian, a Brit, a Confederate, or a Boer. And like any hobby, they had gear for everything, which they loved showing off to Ryan, who was curious enough to ask.

“It’s a hobby like any other,” said a guy dressed up like a South African Boer. “Some people dump tons of money into building model airplanes. We do this. After all, having something you enjoy doing is what makes life worth living.”

“Oh, sure, we know,” Ryan said. “Our thing is sailing.”

“Oh! Well, now that’s an expensive hobby! Do you know what ‘boat’ stands for? Break-Out-Another-Thousand,” the Boer said, laughing at his own joke.

“Yeah, well, I guess it’s just what we do.”

Delaware City hospitality

Ryan and I have been trying hard to transform ourselves into morning people so we can be like those super-humans I admire who can somehow feed their kids, go for a jog, work on their novel and fit in a full day of work, all before they’ve made and eaten their gourmet lunch.

We’re both night owls, which makes it hard to get enough sleep to ever think waking up at 6 am is sane, let alone when it’s cold and dark outside.

But yesterday we had a deadline: we needed to get to Delaware City, DE by 4 pm because we were going to have our first visitors! My childhood friend Elisa and her family were going to brave Philly’s Friday night traffic just to come see us in Delaware, which also meant this would be the first time we’d have children aboard Hideaway. I’m not sure who was more excited – me or the kids.

Because of this, I only hit my snooze button 5 times, instead of 10, and was out of bed by 7:30 am and ready to cast off at 8:15. I know, I know, that is not early. We’re working on it!

Leaving Cape May, our biggest concern was the 55-foot bridge we’d have to pass under to get to the Delaware Bay. Ryan seemed to think the height of our mast was definitely probably around 53 feet. Maybe. So we decided to have a run at the bridge during low tide, just to be safe. I was holding my breath, half covering my eyes, as we passed under the bridge…and I swear we just missed it by 2 inches. “Well, at least now we know we’re shorter than 55 feet!” Ryan said, laughing.

After that little scare, motor sailing through the Delaware Bay was fairly peaceful, except for a little excitement when we were pulled over by the Coast Guard. Charlie, the captain of our two cats, got a little confused about the protocol and tried to board the Coast Guard vessel as it pulled up alongside us. She was probably checking to see if their registration was valid. Once Charlie gave them the okay, the Coast Guard went on their way and we carried on.

Then there was the small problem of our charts showing only 1 foot of water at the entrance to Delaware City. Hideaway draws 5’6″, like many sailboats, so we were baffled as to why Skipper Bob would list a stop-off that would have us running aground. We called ahead to Delaware City Marina on the VHF radio and Tim, the super friendly dockmaster, assured us there was 7 feet of water at the entrance and the charts were wrong. Sure enough, Tim was right. We let out a little more nervous laughter as we passed over the supposed 1-foot lip and we were there – at the friendliest marina we’d been to yet.

Delaware City is the first port to remind us that we aren’t in New York anymore. Or anywhere near it. Though we liked Cape May well enough, the marina wasn’t the friendliest, which was not necessarily a problem, as it made us feel right at home. But we’ve been seeking those places that will make us feel like we’re arrived somewhere new.

Delaware City was that place – Tim, the dockmaster, came down with a neighboring live-aboard Brit to help us secure our boat and do this nifty thing where they swing the boat around to face the other direction with just one hand on the bow and a couple of line tugs. Meanwhile, Ryan and the live-aboard got to chatting about where they were from in England while Tim ribbed them about sounding “all sophisticated.” It’s one of those funny things that happens when Americans hear a British accent – they either go all goo-goo or they feel compelled to imitate the accent.

Once, Ryan asked someone for directions in New Jersey and the American helping him said, “Ooh, are you from England? I just love the English accent!” And then, in a sing-songy voice, she said, “Shall we have tea and crumpets?!” in the worst British accent I’d ever heard. And continued with, “Shall we put some shrimp on the barbie?!” clearly confusing Ryan for an Aussie. Then she grinned at us like she’d just revealed an extraordinary talent. Ryan smiled awkwardly and I cringed.

Tim didn’t do the accent, thankfully, which made me like him even more. Instead he talked us through the history of Delaware City and the C&D Canal, gave us an extensive welcome pack of information about the area and informed us that, as Boat US members, we’d only have to pay $1.80/foot for the first night and $0.90/foot for the second. Bargain! We couldn’t have asked for a friendlier welcome to the tiny little town of Delaware City. And when I say tiny, I mean we went out for a sunset run, and though we jogged up and down every single street in town, it only amounted to 3.5 miles.

But the icing on the cake, at the bargain price of $1.80/foot, was a glorious hot shower in a lovely and spacious bathroom, which put us in a good mood to await our guests.

If this is the treatment we’re in for as we move south, you won’t get me back to New York any time soon.

Ryan, Celia and Charlie somewhere on the Delaware Bay

Checking off Cape May

We left Cape May, NJ this morning with a working bilge pump, which was an accomplishment because apparently we didn’t arrive with one.

For you non-boaters out there, the bilge is the space in the bottom of the boat that collects water from various leaks and drips. And the bilge pump sucks the water out so the boat doesn’t sink. Perhaps you’ve heard that nautical saying: The best bilge pump is a scared man with a bucket.

But of course, we weren’t scared because we didn’t know we had this problem until we filled up our water tanks and discovered a leak in our aft tank, a 50 gallon rubber bladder. I’d suspected it might be leaking, since it seemed to run out quicker than it should, but I’d never looked at the bladder closely when it was full before. This time I did, and I saw 3 clear pinhole leaks spouting water at a fairly quick rate.

Of course, being the head-fixing handywoman that I am, I said, “Psh, I got this!” and reached for a roll of duct tape. Only it turns out duct tape doesn’t stick to water. Not even duct tape with purple peace signs on it. It slid right off the wet rubber and the water just carried on dribbling into the bilge.

The next worry was what was happening to all that water leaking out. It turned out it was going into the bilge and then going nowhere. Which was confusing because we’d just installed a new bilge pump and we were sure it was working when we left New York.

Luckily, Ryan is turning into quite the handyman himself, so he had the foresight to keep our old bilge pump on board as a backup. So he got down and dirty in the bilge, and with a little bit of unwiring and rewiring, voila! We had a working bilge pump.

Once we were sure the boat wouldn’t sink in our absence, we happily hopped on our bikes to go out and explore the town of Cape May, which turned out to be an adorably quiet, picturesque Victorian seaside resort (apparently created because wealthy Philadelphians used to come here in the 1700’s to escape the Yellow Fever epidemic) with meticulously restored Victorian homes and bed-and-breakfasts, and adorable boutiques and restaurants with the most elaborate hand-carved wooden signage I’ve ever seen. Ryan and I joked that the town sign-maker must have done a deal with the local politicians because even the low-brow Acme supermarket had the most beautifully carved wooden sign out front. There was definitely a town ordinance on fancy signs.

As adorable as Cape May was, though, with its fall foliage, town scarecrow exhibit and pumpkins everywhere, the truth was that it was still too cold for our liking. Which meant there was only one thing to do: head further south before it got even colder.

But not before we checked the boat over for all its working parts. Cape May’s near disaster with the bilge pump resulted in the creation of a brand-spanking-new Hideaway “Departure Check List,” which includes “check the bilge.”

I’m sure we’ll need to add to this list as we go, but at the moment, the check list looks like this:

  • Check oil level
  • Clean cat litter
  • Fill water tanks (if needed)
  • Get diesel (if needed)
  • Clean cabin
  • Check bilge
  • Check batteries, including back-up battery
  • Download latest Zygrib
  • Get pump-out (if needed)
  • Send someone sail plan

Hideaway at South Jersey Marina, Cape May, NJ

Tasha / Scarecrow at the Scarecrow Walk in Cape May, NJ

Finally! Sailing from New York to New Jersey

If a messy departure is a good omen for a long journey, then we’re going to have very good luck getting to the Bahamas.

We must have lost some of our skills during the long wait for our refit to be finished because we had a super sloppy cast-off yesterday in 30-knot winds. Our bow line was released a little too early, resulting in Hideaway sliding cock-eyed across two dock spaces and coming to rest with her bow on one slip and her stern on another, which is a difficult position to maneuver out of. I imagined our live-aboard neighbors eating popcorn and peering out their portholes during the shouting spectacle that ensued, placing bets as to whether or not these two idiots would ever make it to the Bahamas alive.

And then there was panic aboard when we hit a floating wooden beam in New York Harbor on the way out. This was a particular worry since two years ago Hideaway was taken out of commission for several months by a similar floating beam which smacked into our rudder and bent the post, taking out our steering. We immediately checked the steering this time and it appeared to be fine. Ryan and I both exhaled, muttering that we’d never survive having to wait another 2 months in New York to repair our rudder.

Our departure from the harbor wasn’t in the calmest of conditions either with 30-knot winds and gusts up to 35 knocking us around the Long Island Sound and jostling the poor cats about the cabin. But all that happened was Charlie ran up on deck and happily fell asleep in the sun while Celia promptly vomited on the teak floor. But at least one cat has her sea legs.

cats sailing new york

Fortunately, we were prepared for this, even if the cats weren’t. We knew the weather would be a little gusty at first and then it would calm down, as we had looked it up on this neat little meteorology app called ZyGrib, which our friend Thomas introduced us to. The downloadable weather maps showed that the wind would be with us (and therefore feel calmer) as soon as we turned off to Hell Gate and down the East River, so we assured the cats it would all be okay.

I, myself, am usually happy with vague weather forecasts of sun, clouds, rain and snow, but I’m now learning that detailed forecasts including the wind direction, tides, and the height and frequency of the waves are actually important when heading out to sea. Before we left, our friend Thomas explained to us how to read the wind direction and speed on the weather map by the symbols, which looked to me like little Zen garden rakes. Each “prong” represents 10 knots of wind and the “handle” points in the direction the wind blows, which helps immensely in making decisions about when to depart (and when not to). The handy thing about this particular app (besides that it’s free) is that you can download forecasts for the next 8 days when you have internet and then use the detailed information offline to do your planning when you don’t have internet, which will be very useful on this trip.

Zygrib weather map example

This was all new to me – especially since our past methods for determining the ideal time to sail has always been based on whether or not it was the weekend. If it was the weekend, or a holiday, and it wasn’t raining, then it was time to go sailing! What? Is that not scientific enough for you?

Yeah, I didn’t think so. Which is why, before departure, I now spend hours studying the little Zen garden rakes on the weather maps and checking the tide tables on our handy Ayetides app.

Sure enough, just as the forecast said, as soon as we headed towards Hell Gate, the bouncing stopped, Celia stopped drooling miserably, and we settled in for a pleasant, albeit cold journey. Now, if you’ve ever been through Hell Gate – the washing machine of crazy current on the East River – you’ll know how ironic this is. It is, after all, called “Hell Gate,” the reason being that the current is so strong that it can run up to 5 knots with you or against you, depending on the tides. So planning the timing of your entrance into Hell Gate is essential.

brooklyn bridge sailing new york

Our plan was to hit Hell Gate around 10 am, shortly after the tide turned in our favor, so we would be carried through the East River with about 1 or 2 knots of current. But then we realized we had to buy milk, say good-bye to the marina staff, get fuel and tie down our bikes. So, we ended up coming through Hell Gate around noon, which meant we were going about 6 knots under motor with a 4-knot current in our favor.

I have to say, whizzing past the Empire State Building at 10 knots is pretty exhilarating, though perhaps not great for photography. “Quick, Ryan! Pose in front of the… oh, it’s gone.”

This was much better than having the opposite problem, though: 4 knots of current against you, which is a mistake we’ve made before.

So, I guess I can’t say I’ve learned nothing in my 5 years on Hideaway. I’ve learned about tides, dodging debris and what the little Zen garden rakes on weather maps mean.

Finally sailing away from New York, after one last run through our old familiar sailing spots in the Long Island Sound and New York Harbor, I was reminded of all the good times and learning experiences (i.e. screw-ups) we’d had in these harbors. It was good to have that run-through with the familiar before launching out into the Atlantic, headed for a new port – the first in a long line of new ports to come. It re-instilled a little of the old confidence that we had lost during the seemingly endless weeks in port, waiting to leave.

statue of liberty sailing new york

And compared to our morning departure, the nighttime sail through still blackness, with 12-15 knots of wind in our sails and not another boat in sight, was blissfully uneventful, even if I was wearing every item of clothing I owned to keep warm. When we finally turned into Cape May about 12:30 this afternoon, bleary eyed from doing 2 to 3-hour shifts all night, it felt like we’d accomplished something. All that waiting was worthwhile: we had finally arrived at our first port.

You might be wondering how we celebrated this milestone. Well, Ryan slept (since he got very little sleep during my hours of watch), and I went out and ran 20 miles along the boardwalk of Wildwood (marathon training requires this of me), not realizing that the south Jersey coast is essentially shut up and abandoned for winter this time of year, turning Wildwood’s boardwalk amusement park into something like a creepy horror movie set. Then I returned to my expensive marina ($2.95/foot), looking forward to nothing more than a long, hot shower to soothe my aching muscles…only to find that South Jersey Marina’s temporary shower (they lost their facilities in a recent electrical fire) only has cold water. Ice cold water. $100 a night and no hot water. There are not enough words for how I felt about the dockmaster in the moment I discovered this. But I’m sure I’ll come up with something when I see him in the morning.

I guess I can make this the first lesson learned on this trip: when making reservations at expensive marinas, make sure to ask first if they have hot water.

Note: In fairness to South Jersey Marina, they were very apologetic about the lack of hot water the next morning and discounted our stay to $2.00 a foot.

tasha ryan manhasset bay marina

Saying our final good-byes to Manhasset Bay Marina, Long Island, NY

turf to surf sailing new york

It’s hard to believe we’re finally sailing out of New York

Tasha, Charlie and Celia sleeping soundly on Ryan’s watch

Approaching Cape May, NJ

Are we there yet?!

Dear friends and family,

I’m sorry to inform you that, despite what we told you, we are never actually leaving New York. We just said all that stuff about sailing to the Bahamas so you would come to our good-bye party and buy us farewell dinners. I feel guilty about the deception and hope you’ll forgive us one day.

I also want you to know that it has recently come to my attention that I am the god-daughter of late Capt. Harly Aku who was a personal confidante to the ousted Head of State of Sierra Leone and was left with the total sum of US $10,000,000.00 (ten million U.S. dollars), which was left under his control within the Presidential Mansion. I must find a trusted partner to help me get this money safely out of the country, so if I could transfer this money to your account, it is guaranteed you will be entitled to 15% of the total sum.

If you are willing to assist me with this transfer, dear esteemed friend, please let me know and I will furnish you with the details.

Yours truly,

Tasha Hacker Aku

post-line-divide

Sorry. My sense of humor is going a little haywire with, well, what is the cabin fever equivalent to being stuck in port? Dock fever? Un-motion sickness? Whatever it is, we’ve got it.

Even Celia couldn’t take it anymore and tried to end her boredom by setting herself on fire over our portable gas stove. Luckily Celia has a lot of fur, so I caught the burning smell before she even flinched and was therefore successful in stamping out her suicide mission.

It is, in fact, beginning to feel like we just made up this whole story about sailing away in order to con a total of two good-bye parties, four good-bye dinners, one good-bye lunch and countless bottles of fizzy wine out of our loved ones and colleagues.

But the boat is now ready to go, and we’re raring to leave as soon as the next weather window allows, which is definitely, probably, hopefully this week.

Let me tell you now: if I am eating this year’s Thanksgiving dinner wearing anything more than a bikini and flip-flops, I will throw Ryan overboard and write about it here.

But as long as we’re on standby, let me catalog here what work has been done over the last 6-8 weeks to get our boat ready to leave (feel free to skip over the list and jump to the photos if boat work is not your thing…I won’t be offended as I nearly fell asleep writing the list):

  • Removed mast and ran new wiring to the top of the mast for the new Windex, LED tri-color navigational lights, LED anchor light, hi-def radar, VHF antenna, cellular data antenna and Rogue Wave WiFi antenna
  • Installed a new alternator on our engine to increase battery charge
  • Installed 4 new G-27 gel batteries (Ryan was particularly excited about this)
  • Installed a new refrigeration plate in our cool box (the old one drew so much power we could never run it unless we were on shore power)
  • Had the boat bottom scraped and painted with anti-foul
  • Replaced our propeller with a larger, more powerful propeller
  • Replaced our old battery-sucking cabin lights with new, modern, low-amp LED lighting
  • Had a new dodger and cockpit awning fitted and custom made
  • Installed a new chart plotter, depth finder and wind-meter at the helm
  • Installed a Xantrex (battery charge monitor) so we know when we need to charge up our batteries
  • Installed a new VHF marine radio on the nav station
  • Bought a new 4-inch memory foam mattress for the V-berth (my new favorite addition…seriously, if you’re not happy with your boat mattress – or even your house mattress – you don’t have to spend a lot of money to replace it – this was $140 on www.overstock.com and a dream to sleep on)
  • Converted one of our hanging lockers into a pantry for more food storage, using Container Store wicker baskets and custom shelves built for the baskets’ sizes.
  • Removed our extremely dangerous alcohol stove and built a shelving unit for storage of pots and pans and our portable gas stove units
  • Had a locking cat flap built into our cockpit washboards
  • Bungee corded the litter box down under the Nav station (fits perfectly there!)
  • Ran netting along all our lifelines for the cats’ safety
  • Installed a new pump in the head and replaced the old toilet seat
  • Installed a new joker valve on the head to keep the waste from coming back into the toilet bowl (which it was doing)
  • Replaced all the window screens and gaskets on the portholes
  • Installed a new auto-helm (to replace the old, perfectly fine auto-helm which was fried by a bad regulator)
  • Installed wall fans in each room
  • Velcroed our iPad cover to the ceiling of our V-berth so we could watch TV on our iPad (okay, maybe this isn’t really “work,” but let me tell you it is a pretty awesome addition if you buy TV episodes on iTunes)

Some highlights of the work in photos below:

Hideaway’s new improved custom dodger

New chart plotter, depth finder and wind meter on the helm

New navigation station gadgets

New memory foam in V-berth…gift of the gods

As I said, this is the best $140 ever spent. It’s like sleeping on a cloud – no seams, no hard spots… just heaven. We bought the 4″ king-size memory foam and cut it into the shape of our V-berth, then laid it right on top of the existing cushioning (the green in the pic is the old cushion). At the Annapolis boat show last year, we got a quote for a custom mattress which cost over $1000 per berth. Crazy! You can buy one just as good here and cut it to size yourself: www.overstock.com

Once a coat closet…now more food storage!

Hideaway’s old alcohol stove – a fire hazard like none other

This alcohol stove came with Hideaway and has only been used once – on the day we finalized ownership of the boat. We were sitting on Hideaway, in a marina in Stamford, Connecticut, wondering how to christen our new acquisition and Ryan suggested making a cup of tea on the stove… before ever buying boat insurance. Bad idea. We lit the stove and noticed very quickly that the purple flames kept climbing higher and higher, despite the fact that I was turning the burner down lower and lower. When they started licking the ceiling, I started frantically turning everything off – I had turned off all the burners, and shut off the stove completely and yet the flames still kept growing. What happened next was a panic in the order of: first ripping open a fire blanket and laying it on the stove, only to find that the flames escaped from the sides and were climbing ever higher, then dumping a bucket of ice on the stove, which only seemed to fuel the fire, then finally yanking out a fire extinguisher and covering our brand new galley with a layer of foam. If only I had a picture of that. What a mess.

But at least we weren’t on fire anymore. And there wasn’t any real damage, except perhaps to our blood pressure. We made a mental note to call Boat US for an insurance quote as soon as we’d mopped up the galley.

Following this hair-raising incident, for five years, the stove would only be used as a small, gimballed storage locker. A very expensive storage locker, at that, as they cost about $1000 new. We looked at the cost of replacing this stove with a propane one, and we were looking at a minimum of $1000 for the stove/oven unit, plus installation, plus the additional requirement of installing a specially ventilated locker to hold a propane tank, which was not going to be an easy or reasonably priced job for a boat that didn’t already have propane tank ventilation.

Our solution? Rip out the stove, build a storage cabinet, and buy two $40 portable gas stoves that could be stored in the new cabinet. We have never understood what to do with an oven anyway, apart from store pots and pans in it, so this feature won’t be missed much.

Hideaway’s new galley storage addition – enough to fit 2 stoves inside as well as all our pots and pans (and some wine)

Isn’t it a lovely stove? Did I mention it was only $40? Check it out: www.amazon.com

The new galley storage space

New locking cat flap in our washboards

Can Charlie and Celia find their way in and out?

The litter box is bungee-corded down under the nav station

Charlie approves of the new lifeline netting

Charlie and celia with our new fan and new hanging iPad TV contraption

Home is wherever I’m with you

I feel like another record scratch is in order. Our revised sail plan had us departing on Monday, October 8th. And then another shakedown cruise proved that our electrics weren’t working, namely our spreader lights, steaming lights, WiFi extender and a few little odds and ends elsewhere. So, we called Tony, our electrician, who was on a fishing trip in Montauk and due back no earlier than Friday, despite our pleas. So, it looks like we’ll need to wait until after Friday when Tony can get back on board and do some magic (i.e. leave us with more things working than not).

Talk about a let-down.

It’s especially a bummer because we just said all our dramatic good-byes last week. We waited until we knew for sure the boat was ready (we thought we were sure) to tell everyone we knew, and then we finally announced to all our employees that we were leaving for good, which up until then was only known by the directors of our companies (they’ve been preparing for this moment for a year now).

And then I realized that we didn’t actually have time to get around and see everyone to properly say our good-byes. So, in my usual last-minute fashion, last Thursday I sent out an impromptu email and Facebook invitation to say that we were throwing together a good-bye party of sorts the next evening after work at The Hideaway, our boat’s namesake bar in TriBeCa.

The Hideaway was our local after-work bar for 4 years when Ryan and I lived in the apartment building across from it, building our business in that neighborhood. Let’s just say, first of all, that building a business is very stressful. Because of that, over the course of those four years, we probably single-handedly kept The Hideaway in business. Hey, it’s all about going local, right?! But, other than the outlines of our bums being permanently imprinted on its barstools, The Hideaway is also very important to us because it’s the bar where we got our friend Rich drunk enough to agree to buy a boat with us. So, the bar has a bit of history, and therefore seemed like the perfect place to gather for some final shenanigans.

The turnout was humbling…so many incredible people from our six-year history in New York came out to reminisce and say their good-byes: my very first New York City friends from the Peace Corps Fellows Master’s degree program I did at Columbia University (which was what brought us to NYC in the first place), Ryan’s Gotham Rugby teammates, running friends, some employees, some ex-students and just the most lovely, lively, positive combination of people in the whole of the New York City five boroughs, for sure.

It was an incredibly nostalgic night and the perfect send-off…even if some of it will only be remembered in photos. But what great photos they are! Below are some highlights of the night in print… I think my favorites are my friend Katie Delavaughn’s photos of the end of the night outside on the streets (after the surly bartenders kicked us out). That night will forever make me miss New York City and the people who make it great.

On the other hand, I won’t miss working long days in Manhattan, leaving the office at 10 pm to catch a train from Penn Station to Port Washington, sometimes hopping on my bike or in a taxi to get to the marina where we tie up our dinghy, then dragging the dinghy into the water to then motor from the marina to Hideaway, often running out of fuel along the way, and then finally climbing aboard around midnight to sit down, throw back a glass of wine and then crawl into bed for a brief night’s sleep before getting up in the morning to hop in the dinghy and head back to Manhattan to do it all over again. I will not miss that.

But I will miss these people. They’re the ones who’ve made New York City a home to us. Thank you, guys. You know exactly who you are.