Trip Report – Nantucket to Port Jefferson, NY

Finally, on the first Thursday of October, we cut the dock lines. For a few days’ prior, we’d wavered between leaving Thursday or Friday, I think after sitting still for 3 months we were nervous about sailing again, plus being tucked into a cheap slip was mighty comfy! Then we realized, hey, we’re not on a schedule, we don’t HAVE to do 50+ mile/10 hour days, so we agreed that we’d leave midday after filling up our tanks, and head over to Tarpaulin Cove, the anchorage on Naushon Island we tucked into on our way back from Block Island in August.

We said our goodbyes the night before to all the new good friends we’ve made. I think that’s the hardest thing about this lifestyle, you’re always saying goodbye…although we know we’ll see everyone soon enough!

Bye Nantucket!

Bye Nantucket!

Thursday morning we woke up early to do all the last minute stuff – get rid of trash, check all the systems, plan how we’d get off the dock on our own (which we’re starting to get comfortable doing!). At about 10 we backed out of our slip and headed to the fuel dock. It may have taken me a while to sidle Summer up to it, but I’ve decided it doesn’t matter how long it takes, as long as I get it done! While Brian was filling the tanks, I stopped in to chat with the dockmaster George – we’d met one of his daughters a few nights earlier, and she said we needed to have a chat with him as he’d done a lot of cruising in the Bahamas. I’m glad we did as he gave us a lot of tips about good places to go. He also explained the mystery of the Nantucket Boat Basin mats at Coinjock – seems he’s a good friend of that marina’s owner!  He gave us a few Boat Basin flags to fly, Brian finished up with fueling, and we were off!

There was no wind and the sound was nearly smooth as glass.  Not a good day for sailing but it was just fine for motoring.  We were just about the only people on the water, save a few ferries going between Nantucket, Martha’s Vineyard, and the Cape.  We pulled into Tarpaulin Cove around 4, dropped the hook, and made it an early night.

Sunrise, Tarpaulin Cove

Sunrise, Tarpaulin Cove

I woke up early and was treated to this absolutely gorgeous sunrise!  We shoved off the next morning around 7:30 bound for Block Island, but before we left, we had to run the generator for a little while to charge our engine starter batteries.  When we’d replaced the house batteries back in Annapolis, we hadn’t even given them a second thought, until we tried to start the engines in September after sitting for a month, and they wouldn’t start.  That time, we figured out how to charge them up off the generator, and all seemed to be fine.  We were definitely confused that they wouldn’t start without more charging time, but we just went with it and added it to the list of things to do in Annapolis.

Going over to Block, we did have a bit of wind and a lot of current against us, so our speed was not what it was the day before.  As we neared the island, Brian suggested we stop and fuel up again before we grabbed a mooring, since we didn’t know when we’d be near a fuel dock again – and we’d already gone to this one so we were familiar with the approach.  When we entered the harbor, the wind was really kicking out of the north, so we knew we’d get pushed into the dock, and I planned the approach accordingly.  It took a little effort, but as I said earlier, it doesn’t matter how long it takes or how many approaches, as long as you go slow it’ll work!

Summer at the dock at Champlin's Marina

Summer at the dock at Champlin’s Marina

Once we tied up, I noticed the marina was mostly empty, so I decided to ask the dock hand how much it would be to stay at the fuel dock overnight, rather than try to get off the dock again and go through picking up a mooring.  He asked how much fuel we were going to buy (“Um, not that much, maybe 30 gallons?”) and how much beer we’d drink in the dockside bar (“Us?  LOTS!”) and said as long as we left early, we were welcome to stay for free.  Score!

We had a great time in the nearly empty bar, and tried to get to sleep at a reasonable hour, as the alarm was set for 5:30 AM.  When we woke up, we got all ready to go and turned the engine keys…and nothing, again.  Fired up the generator (we hadn’t bothered hooking up to shore power), and this time it took almost an hour to get the starter batteries charged enough to start the engines.  Now, we knew we’d need to look to switch them out on Long Island instead of waiting for Annapolis.

We finally pulled out of the harbor at 7:30 bound for Orient Point, LI.  Only a 35 mile run, and the current gave us help.  We briefly met Sharon that morning who found us on the Women Who Sail facebook group I’m a member of, and they were doing the 70 miles to Port Jefferson – but we were tired and just not in the mood for that.  Another uneventful trip, and nice to stop early to relax.  Except after we dropped the anchor and shut off the engines, we noticed a sulfur smell in the starboard hull?  We chalked it up to coming from the seawater, it dissipated after a while, and we settled in with the goal of another early start the next morning.

When I got up at 5:30, I fired up the generator again and turned on the battery charger, and we waited about an hour before trying the engines.  Turned the keys…nothing!  Brian scrambled around with the multimeter, trying a bunch of different things, in the hopes of getting them charged up.  Finally, a eureka moment.  The sulfur smell?  Sulfuric (battery) acid?  We took the starboard battery offline and the port engine charged up, and we were good to go…on one engine.  Now, with a catamaran, this isn’t really a big deal…or so we’d read.  Winds were still pretty light, so we figured it should be fine, and in any case, we were anchored miles from civilization so there wasn’t going to be anywhere we could easily get to if we stayed put.


Not the best view at Port Jefferson...but a nice protected harbor nonetheless!

Not the best view at Port Jefferson…but a nice protected harbor nonetheless!

It was a gray, cold, and rainy day, with winds at our back (and therefore chilling us pretty thoroughly), so the foulies went on and we set our course for Port Jefferson.  It was definitely a bit slower with only Elsie (port engine) working, and Bessie (starboard) taking the day off.  As we got closer to Port Jefferson, the fog started rolling in, visibility was not great, and the current shifted so that we were heading right into it.  Cold, stressed about the battery, stressed about conditions…not fun.  We pulled into Port Jefferson harbor around 3 and had to try to approach the mooring just right – usually I lock the wheel and maneuver the boat with just the throttles of the engines (sort of like a tank), but that wasn’t an option this time!  Still managed to pull it off, and so as soon as we were tied up and changed, we hailed the launch to take us into port, where we found what I’d call a “New York” style Irish pub in which to watch the Giants destroy their 2013 season, followed by some NY style pizza (man, we’d been missing that).

Today we got up and headed in to find a new starter battery for Bessie.  The launch driver suggested the walk to the NAPA auto parts store wasn’t far, but, well, that wasn’t necessarily accurate.  We indulged in some Dunkin Donuts coffee, called West Marine to see if they had batteries, then a cab to get us there.  3 hours later, Brian had the new battery installed and Bessie started up perfectly.  Ahh…

So it’s been an eventful first leg, and tomorrow we head to Port Washington, where we think we’ll get a dock so that we can head into NYC overnight Thursday and not worry about leaving the boat and the cats.  We can also rest up and prepare ourselves for the East River trip – timing it correctly so the current is in our favor is going to be crucial, and I know Brian is worrying about it, so it’ll be good to have this next leg past us!



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