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Northbound - Norfolk, VA to Mystic, CT - 2008

North from Norfolk
by Mary

On June 26 we left Norfolk headed for Cape May, NJ Winds were from the south and southwest - right behind us - so we didn't get much help. The good news was that we had mostly following seas so we weren't crashing into waves. It was a bit rolly which made sleeping difficult and we were pretty tired when we arrived at Cape May on the 28th. We found only a few boats in the anchorage off the Coast Guard station giving us an easy time finding just the right spot. It was great to catch up on much needed sleep.

This trip north we were headed for Groton, CT to visit Neal's son Mark and his family. Mark is career Navy and is currently an instructor at the submarine base in Groton. Researching the area we'd found no good anchorages - they've all been turned into mooring fields. The shock was that the daily charge for a mooring in CT is generally what one pays for a slip with water and electricity farther south. We called for advice and local knowledge to our friend Keith who sails on Camelot and lives in CT in the summers. He confirmed that moorings in the north are expensive and was able to offer us a free mooring next to his boat in Mystic, CT. One of his neighbors is not using this mooring and gave Keith permission for us to use it.

Keith was to meet us at Three Mile Harbor on the north shore of Long Island and would lead us to Mystic.

On July 2, well rested and with good weather we hauled in the anchor at 6:15 in the morning to get a good start on the 219 mile passage to Long Island Sound. (That's 219 nautical miles which is 254 statute miles on land.) Winds were below 10 kts until afternoon when they built to the high teens and topped out at about 20 kts. Again the wind was at our back, so we didn't get as much speed out of it as we'd have liked.

It's always a surprise that we don't see more big ships when we cross the major shipping lanes that go into New York City. This is the third time we've passed this way, and the first time we've seen ships and then just a few. Other ports down the coast seem to have much more traffic.

We found ourselves dodging dozens of fishing boats as we rounded Montauk Point at the tip of Long Island. They seemed to be clustered together in a couple of prime fishing spots which made them easier to avoid.

On the morning of the 3rd, winds had died down a little until we got into Long Island Sound when we found ourselves heading into 25 - 30 kts of wind. Not what we wanted going into an unfamiliar area.

By 3:30 in the afternoon we'd gotten through the long winding channel into Three Mile Harbor, but we turned off the channel too soon and found ourselves aground on a sand bar. Neal couldn't get us free; Keith came to help and couldn't get us free. Sailors being what they are, several dinghies arrived to offer assistance. One of them hauled our secondary anchor out and set it to keep us from blowing further onto the bar when the tide rose. So we got some reading material and a glass of wine and waited for the tide to come in and float us again. Eventually we were able to bring in the anchor and move beyond the bar.

By 8:30 we were safely anchored. Three Mile Harbor gets its name because it is 3 miles from East Hampton on Long Island. It is a lovely place - very quiet even on a holiday weekend. Keith had been working on Swept Away another Saga 43 getting new fuel tanks installed. His project finished, we were invited with Keith aboard Swept Away by owners Don and Judy for hors d'oeurves and then we all went to dinner at a local restaurant and had a wonderful evening getting to know one another. It was July 4 and we could hear fireworks, but couldn't see them from the anchorage. The next day Keith towed our dinghy to a beach where Neal cleaned barnacles off the bottom and fixed a leak. On July 5th we followed Keith out of the harbor, across Long Island Sound; and up the Mystic River to his mooring field at Mystic.

3 Mile Harbor

Mystic, CT
by Mary

Other boats were on the mooring he'd arranged for us so we tied up to another vacant mooring. Monday, when the correct mooring became available, Keith towed us to it. It was interesting to see our 10 ton boat being towed by a small dinghy with a small 5 hp outboard motor.

We saw more kayaks here than we'd seen anywhere else and racing sculls, too. It seems that every time we look out, there's at least one kayak going by. We were near a swing bridge for Amtrak on the nation's busiest rail corridor. Many passenger trains daily on the Boston - New York City route plus those that come from as far north as Portland, ME and go as far south as Washington, DC. The bridge tender here is very busy opening for boats and closing for trains.

We can take the dinghy into town from here - there's a nice dinghy dock. Mystic is a touristy place but it is not tacky - mostly a pretty New England town. Although there's not a supermarket within walking distance, there is a medium sized natural food store, and convenience store and a CVS pharmacy that has some grocery items. We rented a car for a few days to do some reprovisioning. Trips to Sam's Club, West Marine, supermarkets and, of course, a used book store.

Our reason for coming here was to visit with Neal's son Mark and his family. We had a short but great visit. Wow how the kids have grown!

This is where we started on the project list. The water heater is now fixed! That's a huge step forward.

One perplexing project was trying to figure out why the 110 volt electrical outlets on one side of the boat did not work. The original wiring diagram is not as helpful as it should be and Neal was dreading the prospect of removing interior woodwork to trace the wires. The plan he developed began with examining each outlet to determine where the string begins. When he finally looked at the outlet in the forward head it turned out that a ground fault interrupter had been triggered. Keep in mind that the forward head is used strictly as a storage location so we go in there only to retrieve needed items. It took a while to even remember where that outlet was located. We were greatly relieved that we didn't have to tear the boat apart. But that relief was short lived.

We called the pump out boat to come to empty our sewage holding tank - a very routine operation. But it wouldn't' pump out. This is a serious problem. The holding tank is located under the bed in the aft cabin. This is one of our primary storage areas and is always filled to the ceiling with stuff. When we have to empty this area all the stuff gets loaded onto our bed. It's quite a project.

Without going into gruesome detail, we opened the holding tank from the top, determined that it wasn't a vent problem and got it pumped via that opening. After several unsuccessful experiments that didn't resolve the problem, we got Neal ready to plunge his arm into the tank to examine the drain. With a rubber glove and then a garbage bag over that and reaching to his armpit he found the clog in the drain. Using a plumber's snake and several more gloves and garbage bags, the drain was free. What an unpleasant task!. Even so, we were grateful that we didn't have to remove and replace our sewage lines.

Ah, yes. Such is the carefree life of the cruiser! In the meantime, its about time for us to head for Maine with a bunch of projects still waiting to be done. We've got until we take off again for the islands to get the list finished.


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