It has been ten months since we left “Nor’easter” in the loving hands of Jamestown Boat Yard (JBY), where it was dismasted, winterized, and shrink-wrapped for the winter. Our original plan was to sail her to Maine this August and possibly return home via the St. Lawrence Sea Way, but with Canada currently closed to Americans, we decided to skip Maine and just motor home via the Hudson River and Erie Canal.
We caught a 6:00 AM flight from Cleveland to Providence RI July 13, Ubered to Jamestown, and found “Nor’easter” happily floating in a boatyard slip, mast stepped, hull waxed, teak deck spotless, and interior like new. The crew at JBY had recommissioned all systems, done a test run, and everything was perfect. However, sails and canvas all were stored elsewhere over the winter, so we had a full day of work installing our furling drum, bending on the main and genoa, putting canvas over the bimini and dodger frames, hooking up our solar panel, going up the mast to attach lazy-jacks, changing the engine and gear oil in the outboard, and provisioning. All the food, spices, condiments, and wine had to be removed for winter storage, so the grocery bill was significant.
We were allowed two free nights in our JBY slip, which gave us a rest day to have dinner with two Newport couples we met while “marooned” in Caneel Bay during the COVID spring of 2020. It was fun enjoying the town in its “fully open” state, as it was fairly subdued during our weeks there last summer.
While this trip is primarily a “delivery,” since we are missing three weeks of the best time to be in northern Ohio, we planned some interesting stops along the way, but were aggressive about distances travelled. Our first stop was Saybrook Point Marina in Old Saybrook, CT., about 50 NM from Jamestown. We left Newport harbor in pea-soup fog at 0730 hrs, visibility was at best 50’, so we were motoring with our fog horn blaring every two minutes, eyes fixed to radar and GPS. Having not been at sea in 10 months, it was a bit harrowing starting out that way, but we managed to not go aground or hit another boat for the three hours until the fog lifted. After that, we had a pleasant motor down Long Island Sound, dodging lobster pots every few hundred yards, and viewing several historic light houses.
Saybrook Point has a high-end resort built around the marina, which hosts several “super yachts” as well as a few diminutive craft like ours. We arrived late afternoon, but stayed two nights, spending much of the day in the fitness center (mostly Jamie) and enjoying cold drinks by the pool (mostly George). We enjoyed fine dining the first night at a restaurant called “Aspen,” and more casual cuisine (and actually better) the next night at the “Monkey Farm,” which had cheap beers and the best fish and chips I’ve had in ages.
Our departure from Saybrook Point to our next stop, Saugatuck Yacht Club, was again shrouded in fog, probably worse than in Newport. We dodged several vessels that were not using AIS (vessel ID system). The fog lifted around 1100, but was replaced by blazing hot sun and biting flies. The wind never materialized, but the current was favorable, and we arrived at the mouth of Saugatuck Harbor just as about 50 small, one-design sailboats were finishing a race where we were trying to go. Fortunately we could motor faster than they could sail, so nobody swore at us for taking their wind.
Saugatuck Yacht Club had a nice marina, but not much else. The club house did not have a bar or restaurant, and was not open to guests, just members. They had a fine pool, which we were anxious for our overheated bodies to enjoy, but since there was a thunderstorm coming, the dock attendants told us it was closed. However, we noticed several members were still swimming, so we joined them for a few minutes before the authorities ejected all of us. Since it was too hot to eat on the boat, and the SYC had no restaurant, we again Ubered into town and had a perfectly delightful dinner sitting at the bar of the “Black Duck,” named for a local rum-runner boat of the Prohibition era. The owner, who started the establishment 43 years ago, joined us for dinner along with his son.
Our next 50 NM shot was to the City Island Yacht Club, located in the Bronx about 10 miles north of Manhattan Island. We picked it because all the marinas in NYC were $500 per night, but our mooring at the CIYC was just $40, and included 24/7 shore boat service. We had an easy motor down from Saugatuck, cool temperatures, overcast skies, no wind or flies. City Island is a bit eclectic, as the area by the marina is dominated by 2 restaurants, “Sammy’s Fish Box,” and “Sammy’s Shrimp Box.” Both were crowded and reminiscent of “Red Lobster,” so we demurred and returned to the CIYC, where they have a cozy, classic, yacht club bar, built 1909, attentive staff, and a restaurant run by Haitian lady chef who cooked, mentored the two young waiters, bussed the tables when necessary, conversed with the diners, and made fantastic dishes with a Caribbean flair. We both had grilled branzino, steamed clams, and home-made cherry shortcake. It was all first class. We retired early because our impending passage down the East River had to be timed perfectly to avoid treacherous currents around “Hell’s Gate.”
The East River runs southwest along the east side of Manhattan. We caught the tide as it was going out, hit speeds over 10 knots with the help of up to 5 knots of favorable current. Our friend John Dutt, who lives in NYC, rode his bike to the waterfront to greet us from the pier at 42nd Street. He took some nice photos of our boat. It was dramatic seeing NYC from the Hudson, but the favorable current in the East River became most unfavorable once we turned north on the Hudson, and our speed dropped to 2.5 knots at times. By hugging the shoreline, we were able to achieve top speeds of 3.5-4.0 knots, but it was slow going until the tide turned around 1300, at which point we had only travelled north 6 miles. By 1400, we were just as far north on the west side of Manhattan as we were at City Island on the east side, but the trip was enjoyable, all the same.
Which brings us to our current location, Croton-On-Hudson Marina, where we arrived today at 1500, caught a cab to the top of the fabled Croton Dam, and walked down to the bottom on a wooded 1-mile path. Jamie decided she needed more exercise after our descent, so she walked back up and down again while I napped on a picnic bench. We caught a cab back to the boat, showered, grilled pork chops, and will be, again, early to bed for another 50 mile run up the Hudson. We have just 70 miles to go before we reach Catskill, NY, where we will pull our mast, put it on a truck to Buffalo, and enter the Erie Canal north of Albany and motor to Buffalo. Hopefully, the truck with the mast will arrive before us, we can get the boat rigged and sail home to Sandusky. Sadly, after putting so much time and effort into putting our boat into sailing condition, we had to spend this afternoon taking everything apart again so we can pull the mast out tomorrow for navigating the Erie Canal, which has 20′ height limit. We never even took off our mainsail cover the entire trip.