Paul Fenn

Chase’n Grace, Annapolis to Block Island – Part 2

Leaving Cape May in route to Block Island
Natalie and Mitch sit on the bow as we leave Cape May in route to Block Island

The morning sprang to life like a crop of green summer corn. After a night on the dock, we were rested and ready to go. So after a few cups of good coffee and something to eat, we shook off the dock lines, stowed them away and headed out the channel to the Atlantic. A look at the weather forecast told us that we were looking at light but fair winds for the next few days so a straight shot offshore all the way to Block Island made sense. As a bonus, the moon was quickly working its way towards being full so we would have good company along the way. It would be just about a 200 mile trip or about 30-35 hours. Our course would take us away from the New Jersey coast, across the shipping channels into New York and eventually past the tip of Long Island to Block Island. It would be a long but enjoyable trip full of adventure.

I had planned on being away from the dock fairly early but it was after 9am before we found ourselves leaving the channel and settling on our course to Block Island. In reality, if you’re in no rush to make landfall, it doesn’t really matter what time you leave. At the end of the day, you will be underway for a full day, a night and most of the next day too depending on the wind and how fast you go.

screen_ais_with_notation_hr
AIS or Automatic Identification System allows a vessel such as Chase’n Grace to see a host of information about other vessels around it including its speed and course. It’s awesome!

Chase’n Grace has a full host of navigation equipment fitted on board including radar and GPS. It’s also setup to receive AIS information which allows me to see and identify on the chartplotter, other vessels such as large ships and fishing vessels. Having AIS on board takes a lot of angst out of sailing at night especially in areas where’s there’s likely to be a high concentration of traffic such as the shipping lanes going in and out of New York. The other piece of navigation equipment that I like is the Navionic’s iPad app. For about $50 you can download this slick piece of software, instantly giving you your own personal chartplotter complete with GPS right on your iPad or iPhone. It’s great value and because it’s portable, you can set it anywhere that’s convenient. And, because it’s mine, I don’t have to go through the pains of learning a new system every time I step aboard a new boat.

Due to the light winds, we were forced to motor-sail for most of the morning but sometime around lunchtime, the wind filled in from the northwest allowing us to kill the engine and sail along on a beam reach. Not everyone likes ocean sailing but for me there’s something strangely soothing about being off the grid and being surrounded by nothing but water. I always breathe easier once I’m away from shore with plenty of water beneath me and nothing to hit. It’s a great feeling.

My wife Kim and me early on in our trip from Cape May to Block Island.
My wife Kim and me early on in our trip from Cape May to Block Island.

The wind came and went this first day at sea and before we knew it, the New Jersey coast disappeared over the transom and we were alone. You do a lot of reading on trips like this. You also play a lot of cards and other games that keep you entertained along the way. Spending time at sea can almost be too quiet at times but I’ve never been bored, especially if you have good company aboard, and we did.

Along about midnight, we started to cross the shipping lanes that run in and out of New York. There are three sets of channels that serve New York with each one having an inbound and an outbound lane. This is always a busy spot, especially at night when there are always a myriad of ships coming and going. The good news is that the course these ships are on are always fairly predictable. The bad news is, they’re big and they don’t alter their course much for the likes of some 53 foot blow-boat crossing in front of them. This is where AIS really comes in handy, allowing you to alter your course just enough so you don’t end up as road-kill.

Cape May to BI

We set two watches for the night with Kim and Matt on one watch and Jen and I on the other. Regardless of whether you’re on watch or off watch, I always find it hard to get any real sleep the first night out. With the moon almost full, it was not a night to spend sleeping away anyway. As a bonus, we were visited by a pod of dolphins sometime around 1am which we couldn’t really see but we could clearly hear as they came up for a breath of air. They stayed with us for several minutes riding our bow wave under our starboard running light. It’s always a treat to be visited by dolphins during a passage!

With the summer days being so long, night soon gave way to the warm glow of a rising sun. A new day had begun and with any luck, before it was over, Chase n’ Grace would be swinging on the hook in Great Salt Pond on Block Island.

We had good breeze through most of the morning of this second day but by early afternoon we were forced to crank up the D-Sail to be assured of reaching Block Island by late afternoon. We had been without cell coverage for the past 12 hours or so but as soon as we began to get close to Montauk Point, the text messages and emails came pouring in with all their pings and dings reminding us that civilization was not far away. We rode the incoming tide past Montauk picking up a nice 3 or 4 knot lift through Block Island Sound. By 4;30 we found ourselves rounding the red bell #2 and sailing into the channel of Great Salt Pond.

Block Island Arrival
Chase’n Grace at the entrance of Great Salt Pond, the primary harbor on Block Island.

By 5pm we had the hook down and our rum and tonics in hand. We ended up staying in Block Island for several days enjoying this quintessential New England island. Our friends, Matt and Jen along with their kids Natalie and Mitch, stayed with us until the weekend and then took the ferry back to New London, Connecticut where they picked up a rental car and drove back to Annapolis.

Block Island SunsetAs I stated in the beginning of this tale, it can be a bit of a poke getting all the way from Annapolis to New England but it can also be a great adventure. And once you’re there? Well, when it’s just the two of you on a 50 foot boat, it’s a whole new adventure just waiting to be experienced. For me, Chase’ n Grace from Annapolis to Block Island will always be worth the trip!

On we go…

PS: If you missed reading part one of this fantastic yarn, catch it here and enjoy!

3 thoughts on “Chase’n Grace, Annapolis to Block Island – Part 2”

  1. Nice post Paul, thanks for sharing. I miss sailing 🙂 … sunrise on the water is a special treat and the trip near “home” must have been special. FYI, my daughter works at the Pentagon now in DC … be fun to have dinner sometime when we visit. Take care. George

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