Traveling the 120 nautical miles from Cape May, NJ to New York City on a 1975 Allied Seawind Mark II 32′ ketch.
The conditions we had were quite benign with winds only getting up to 15 knots briefly. It was only when we anchored off Sandy Hook the next morning that some brief but heavy rains fell on us. The waves were about 3 – 5′ in height on the ocean but with a long period which the boat handled them well.
Fortunately this boat had a wheel autopilot (“Otto”) who did most of the steering. The boat was also equipped with redundant GPS’s and a chart plotter. Otto made standing watches pretty easy as we just had to monitor the horizon, the wind and the sails and “feed” the engine occasionally. We never encountered conditions that overwhelmed Otto’s abilities with this full keeled sailboat.
M, the owner of the boat I know to be a very hands on captain and quite capable sailor. W, the other crew is an extremely capable skipper as well. Knowing that these fellows were to make up the rest of the crew figured high in my calculus of deciding whether or not to volunteer to go along on this trip. My instincts were right and I thought that we got along well together. We were well provisioned on a well found boat.
Ocean safety precautions were taken at night; Jack lines led forward on either side, harnesses worn at all times in the cockpit and the Whisker pole was removed prior to sundown so no late night hijinks on the foredeck would be required. Knowing that we were sailing nearly 20 miles offshore with sailors who took safety precautions seriously was reassuring.
What differed from the last open ocean trip I did was that once the sun went down the coast of northern NJ four miles away provided enough light to see a water horizon around the boat. My last trip from Tortola, BVI’s to Turks and Caicos was out on the open ocean and come nightfall there was no discernible horizon as sky and water were both black.
This trip was no different then my last ones in that I found it difficult to go to sleep down below when off watch. By the end of the 3 day passage from the BVI’s to the lower Bahama’s I was able to finally doze off a bit, but this trip was done in about 30 hours underway and while I did lie down for my shifts below I rarely slept, but I did find the lie down time refreshing and relaxing.
I even resisted taking a nap after we had dropped the anchor at Sandy Hook at about 0700 the next morning as we waited for the current to change to the north. Instead I wore my foul weather gear and hid under the Dodger from rain that had finally found us. I watched 4 Ospreys hunting and saw one catch a Bunker and fly away with it. Another highlight was seeing a pod of 10 to 15 Atlantic Dolphins following us off of Atlantic City, NJ.
I am the kind of person who really likes to observe. I prefer a window seat on an airplane so I can look out the window and I will stare at the high altitude clouds or land 5 to 6 miles below for hours on end. Perhaps this a character fault as I was quite exhausted when M. and W. landed me at one of the Chelsea Piers docks so I could walk home with my bags and they head upriver with the tide for Nyack. I felt bad leaving them with the clean up after the cruise but it was agreed that I would go as far as NYC.
I was so tired I decided to take a cab the 2 or 3 miles home instead. The ocean had given me some considerable sea legs and coupled with my exhaustion I could not resist the ride in the warm weather.
It was a great trip and I would do it again in a heart beat.