Saturday, October 23, 2010

Home Port

     The end of our trip down the Hudson was in rain with predictions of winds in the 40's for the following days. Silent Maid would rest in Jersey City while her crew waited on the weather from the comforts of home. It was worth the wait as we sailed from Jersey City to the Manasquan Inlet on a single tack with the wind out of the Northwest fluctuating between 8 and 12 knots. The sea was as flat as a lake as we sailed along the beach, three days of offshore breeze will do that. We had the current running out of New York then into the Manasquan Inlet, it was truly a perfect day for this particular trip and a great way to end a five month cruise.

      We short tacked between the inlet jetties knowing Suzanne Beaton would be taking pictures then took the sail before reaching the railroad bridge. Between the bridges we picked up the Beatons and Wendy for the run down to Mantoloking. It was motor boating and bridges until we reached the Bay Head Yacht club and set the sail for one last time. Bay Head is the town on the transom but we were headed one more south to David Beaton and Sons in Mantoloking where Silent Maid would be wintering.
     And that's it. The sea bag is home, the food has been cleaned out of the galley, the rig is out and soon the boat will be in a shed. But not quite, not so fast, there is still the original Silent Maid back in Philadelphia.
     She is looking pretty good with fresh paint and varnish all around. The multitude of repairs are hidden under that paint and she looks good enough to float though she surely is not. The discerning eye would have no trouble spotting her hog though most wouldn't see it. She is nearly ready to move out of the shop, either to display or to warehouse. I am strongly for display not just because that boat was the beginning of a remarkable adventure for me but because she has had a profound effect on all those who crossed her wake. We were reminded of that everywhere we went and can only hope the new Silent Maid has a similar impact.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Hudson Valley

     Around ten years ago it was my good fortune to take the powerboat Barnegat from Kingston, New York to Montreal. Since then I have always wanted to see the Hudson River from New York City to Kingston and this week I have finally got to do it. That first trip was at this time of year and Barnegat is accompanying us on this trip;  even though I am on a different boat and a number of years have passed there is a continuity. There you go.

     The excuse for this trip is to participate in a New York Yacht Club Cruise. That is an experience in itself. Most of the participants are largish power boats that are or appear to be made by Hinkley, the maritime equivalent of a Beamer. Each day has ended with cocktails and dinner some place where I would not normally or abnormally picture myself having either. Whenever possible one should do this sort of thing. Because there is no racing these events are very different in character than the sailing events we have been participating in all summer.

     The River is fascinating  as we transition from the modern city environment to the inspiration for a whole school of landscape painters and back again. As American rivers go this one is steeped in history; mansions,West Point, stuff named after Rip Van Winkle, this neighborhood has it all. Not much sailing though, the motor has been on more than off, but we are sailing downwind now on the return journey, as we approach West Point. The fall color is just getting started here, the weather is crisp, cold nights and fully covered days. Our sunblock consumption has plummeted.

     The Hudson has kinetic scenery as befits the major conduit into New York City. Trains are a constant presence on the river banks, freights run along the western bank and passenger along the eastern. Trains have been with us for long enough that they fit the landscape. Thank the transportation gods that a major highway wasn't carved into the cliffs as well. Rivers have always been about human commerce and even as water born transport fades they often provide the easiest path for rails and roads. The rails are here to remind us how the mansions got built and who bought those remarkable landscape paintings. The earlier flow of commerce on the water still exists, Silent Maid maneuvered some tight bends in the company of barges and ships, and there are remnants of the earlier canal traffic. We went a little out of our way to pass close by the Hudson River Sloop, Clearwater, a replica of a vessel used to transport goods from the end of the Erie canal to the city which now works hard to promote a clean waterway, and there are a few older vessels along the banks testifying to the busy commerce of long ago. As the city drew nearer the traffic increased until we were surrounded by iron behemoths who would barely register crushing our little wooden boat. No questions about right of way here.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Jersey City

     The Liberty Landing Marina has been our home for the past week. It boasts a spectacular view of lower Manhattan with all the amenities of a full service marina. It is sheltered from both the wind and the wakes of the zillion ferry boats that crisscross this part of the harbor. Above all of this is the easy drive to Philadelphia, work and home. The fact is that keeping a family life and a profession going while moving a boat around can be difficult and having the boat a bit closer has been a great help with that. Now if I could determine what exactly constitutes a day off......

The reason for being in New York harbor was to participate in the Manhattan Yacht Club's Classic Yacht Series. This event conflicted with another on Long Island Sound for some reason so both got fewer boats. For Silent Maid this meant there weren't many boats of similar size and speed. In the first race we sailed that really didn't matter. Pretty early on we determined just getting around the course would be seamanship enough.  The course was from North Cove to the Verrazano Bridge and back. There were twenty knots of breeze at the start and thirty at the bridge.  Except for me the crew was totally unfamiliar with the boat and many were new to sailing. They were the staff of that wonderful after school boat building, rowing, youth building program, Rocking the Boat.  We had boat builders, social workers, teachers and development people aboard. A couple were also sailors.

     It is generally not considered fast to train the crew during the start sequence but that is faster than not training the crew at all. We got a late , safe, start and shook out the one reef we had to see if we could catch anyone, we couldn't. The crew had enthusiasm in abundance which is good when sailing through rain squalls. They also had a great willingness at the winches when it came time to wind in the reefs. As we approached the Verrazano the gusts grew in force so we put in two reefs while still headed down wind. In the course of doing this we got above the mark and decided, wisely I think, to tack around rather than jibe. The waves were steep and it took  two tries to build the momentum needed to execute a chicken jibe. We did this again at the mark and were hard pressed until we managed to get the third reef in. Once that was done it was smooth sailing tacking through a fleet of anchored barges. One of the big boats had dropped out just after the rounding so we weren't even in last place anymore. Life was good ....... and wet.

The second day's racing was the opposite of the first.  Light air. The crew this day was large and consisted of A Cat sailors from Barnegat Bay, too many of them for efficient sailing, but a good number for a floating party. A northwest breeze had come in and faded already so the air was as clear as it was still. It was a bright clear day to view the sights of new York Harbor. We even did OK racing, I think, but I won't try to lose readers with the details.

Sunny day photos by Julie Smith
Cloudy day photos by Rocking the Boat