“The wind is in from Africa” Joni Mitchell

In March or April of every season, we begin thinking about what our strategy for hurricane season (roughly from June to November) will be.  In 2014 and 2015, we secured and left Elizabeth Jean respectively in a hurricane hole, or south of the hurricane zone.   Rather than stay with Elizabeth Jean through the tropical summer our first two years out, we flew north.

Our strategy this season, in contrast, was to sail to more temperate areas north of the most intense hurricane zone.  Hurricanes, however, can stray north as Hurricane Sandy demonstrated in 2012.  Therefore, part of our daily weather briefing includes information on potential tropical systems as they form off Africa’s coast.  There the differences between the hot, dry Sahara Desert in north Africa and the cooler, wetter, and forested coastal environment in west Africa form the African Easterly Jet, a band of strong high altitude winds.  The Jet is unstable and undulates in a north-south direction, often forming a north to south trough, or wave, that moves westward off the West African Coast. When these waves of air have enough moisture, lift, and instability, they form thunderstorms, sometimes becoming correlated with a center of air circulation. This circulation may form a tropical cyclone as the areas of disturbed weather move westward across the Atlantic.

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For more about hurricane formation see http://response.restoration.noaa.gov/about/media/what-does-sahara-desert-have-do-hurricanes.html

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Hurricane Hermine dominated our weather watch for the latter part of August.  On August 18, the National Hurricane Center designated the system while still off Africa as an Investigative Area (or an Invest for short) and given a number.  In ten days, the system had crossed the Atlantic and had become a Tropical Depression (TD).  Named Hermine on August 31, she became a hurricane a day later and reached land on September 2.  After first landfall, the system moved north along the Atlantic Coast.  We didn’t start moving south from Maine until September 6.

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We are now keeping a close eye on Hurricane Matthew, which began off Africa’s coast as Invest 97L.

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Maine: “[A] place . . . built just to enjoy” Will Rogers

 

Following our evening transit through the Cape Cod Canal and our moonlit passage up the northern New England coast, we arrived at York Harbor, Maine’s most southern port of call.  In addition to the plentiful enjoyment for which the state is built, Maine represented our completion of what the cruising community knows as the Big U (the shape formed by connecting vertical lines up or down both the East and West coast’s with the lower horizontal of the Panama Canal Transit.  While in Maine we visited with an abundance of friends and family in York, Falmouth, Bridgton, Topsham, Naples and Bethel who helped us celebrate our three year and more than 8,000 nautical mile voyage.  Elizabeth Jean is taking us south to warmer winter waters.

 

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For a wealth of information about the Big U see:

http://www.bigucruising.com

 

 

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“The bared and bended arm of Massachusetts” Henry David Thoreau

To navigate Cape Cod we elected to transit the Cape Cod Canal’s 7 mile cut connecting Buzzard and Cape Cod bays, rather than journey 135 miles around the entire “bended” arm.  Both Miles Standish and George Washington are reported to have had interest in connecting the two bays.  However, canal construction did not begin until 1909.  Since its opening in 1914, the canal has grown from 100 feet wide and 15 feet deep to 540 feet wide and 32 feet deep. We had planned to spend the night at Onset on the canal’s southwest side and to ride the morning flood tide into Cape Cod Bay. We arrived at Onset with two hours of sunlight and an hour and half of the evening flood tide left.  A rising full moon and predicted calm weather enticed us to immediately ride the tide through the canal and make a night passage further up the coast. A five knot current briskly ushered us from Buzzard Bay through the canal. Under the full moon, a thickening cluster of lobster pots winked at Elizabeth Jean on Cape Cod Bay’s calm waters as Perkins, our faithful diesel engine, hummed us up Massachusetts’ coast to New Hampshire and Maine.

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The Canal’s Bourne Bridge; the Railroad bridge is in the distance.  Photo credit: Army Corps of Engineers.

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The albatross-eye view of the Cape Cod Canal looking from the from Cape Cod Bay at the photograph’s bottom.

 

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“It’s what you do with what you remember” Professor Labaree

Great teachers never stop teaching. With age, moreover, they add wisdom to knowledge. Benjamin Labaree, the founder of the Williams-College Mystic Seaport Program, shared his alchemical thoughts on spinning memory into action the last time I visited with him at the Seaport in 2007. At that time, I asked him to check my thirty year old recollection of a mid-October swim  in the Gulf Stream behind the Westward, a sailing research vessel, when I was his student. Was it possible, my query continued, that later that night under the glare of deck lights we pulled an enormous tuna (soon to be cooked and served) off the longlines we had set for our shark tagging research? “Yes,” the professor replied to my questions before adding the day’s lesson on what really mattered–memory infused action.

In Mystic again, this time with Elizabeth Jean, we steeped ourselves in the Seaport’s distinct tribute to our nation’s maritime memories and in the process reinvigorated our push north.

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The Joseph Conrad, in the foreground, and the whaling vessel, Charles W Morgan, are the Seaport’s largest exhibits.  The Seaport recently completed refitting the Morgan for sea.  In 1977 a sepia toned poster of the two vessels caught Eric’s eye in snow bound Williamstown, Massachusetts.  The poster announced a new interdisciplinary Williams program intertwining maritime history, literature, science and policy at Mystic Seaport.  Eric eagerly shipped aboard the new venture.

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Eric’s class mate, Susan Stucke Funk, and her husband Jim hosted Elizabeth Jean by providing their mooring ball in the Mystic River.  Susan is now the Seaport’s Executive Vice President.  Many thanks to the Funks for their welcoming hospitality.

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Artists from the Salt Marsh Opera performed on the Seaport Green.  We were impressed by the duos acting as they sang a number of love songs.  They announced at the end of the performance that they were engaged to be married.

For more on the Williams-Mystic Program and the Morgan see respectively:

https://mystic.williams.edu/

Restoring an Icon — The Charles W. Morgan

 

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“[A]s large a lump of earth as my heart can really take in.” Nathaniel Hawthorne

Oyster stakes gave way to a scattering of lobster pot buoys as Elizabeth Jean gamboled up Long Island Sound from New York to Connecticut.  A menu entrée offering “New England Tempura,” (turned out to be a traditional fried seafood platter) and an al fresco shore-side restaurant presenting an abundance of lobster dishes (Newburg, risotto, and tacos) provided culinary evidence of Elizabeth Jean’s transition to New England shores, the coastal fringe of Hawthorne’s heart filling “lump of earth.”   We shared these regional culinary reference points respectively with Patti and Dick Broad (Eric’s friend from his Princeton youth) and Jonathan (Eric’s first cousin) and his wife Kit.  A tour of Jonathan’s “Boat House” project and a side trip up the Connecticut River to historic Essex rounded out our reintroduction to Connecticut and entry to New England waters.

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The Mary E welcomes the Elizabeth Jean to Essex.  The Connective River Museum operates the 1906 vintage schooner, which has served as a cargo ship, U.S. mail carrier, sword fishing vessel, and private yacht.

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By the time of the American Revolution, Essex was already a shipbuilding center.

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Captain Sullivan, prepares to test drive the Turtle.  The world’s first submersible with a documented record of combat.  The original  Turtle was built in Old Saybrook down river from Essex.  The Turtle made several unsuccessful attempts to attach explosives to British warships in 1776.

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The Gump-like Captain Sullivan photo bombs the British landing at Essex during the War of 1812.  Within a 24 hour period, the British destroyed 27 ships.  Captain Sullivan escaped unharmed.

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Dick and Patti met us in Essex and we drove to Old Saybrook (home of the Turtle’s shipyard) for dinner.

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Jonathan and Kit aboard Elizabeth Jean.  We later visited Niantic harbor to see Jonathan’s construction project.  His client asked for a house that looked like a ship and Jonathan delivered a land-side structure whose elegance rivals the QEII.  Lobster and seafood dinners in Noank at the mouth of the Mystic River capped a memorable visit

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“He came into my life” Zelda Laschever

Mamaroneck, in addition to being near Eulalie’s high school sailing waters, is a 10 minute drive from Rye, New York.  Rye is home to Eric’s third brother, Jack and his family–wife Sonali, Benjamin, and Tara.  Time and we unwound as we became their neighbors for a relaxed couple of weeks during which we visited, went to the theater to see Ben and Tara in Oink (a musical version of the Three Pigs), and entertained them on Elizabeth Jean.  On our final evening together, we cozied up on the living room couch and watched a video of Jack and Sonali’s wedding reception.  There in high definition resolution were my brother Dave and I in turn toasting the newlyweds.  The crowd later raised the couple on chairs for a wild traditional Jewish hora, a somehow fitting cross cultural addition to the Catholic wedding service and stunning Indian wedding regalia worn by the bride and her family.  My mother’s voice caught my ear.  The roving photographer had been documenting the event, soliciting comments from the happy crowd.  Among the happiest, our parents.  With well traveled words, Muz recounted how Pog came into her life: a blind date on her twenty-first birthday.  As if blarney-stone kissed, she waxed on about my father–his kindness, patience, strength and humour.  Well trained by the years, he waited, patiently bemused.  At my mother’s pause, he looked at her,  “Are you free later tonight?”  If voices could wink, his would have.  Then, they were again gone as the photographer moved on.  If for a moment my parents and their warmth and love had re-entered our lives so too had we again rejoined both of our families’ lives as we journeyed up the East Coast.

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Tara takes the helm.

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Captain Benjamin.

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“The best thing you could do would be to leave it alone” Halsey Herreshoff

As Halsey Herreshoff noted, some things are best left alone.  Halsey, a boat designer and builder and grandson of Nathaniel Herreshoff, was speaking of the design of his grandfather’s famed Long Island Sound sailboat, the S-Boat, more about which in a minute.  Halsey’s advice, however, might apply more broadly to Long Island Sound itself where Eulalie honed her racing skills while in high school and where forty years later, Elizabeth Jean relaxed and recreated for much of this July and early August.  Our time in the sound offered Eulalie a poignant trip down memory’s wake spurred by her encounter with the proud and patient owner of an S-Boat.  Later, as we sashayed up the Sound, an array of stakes poking above the water kept us alert.  “Oyster Stakes” our charts informed us.  More abundant than Eulalie recalled, the stakes signify an oyster boom.  The Sound’s restoring health, much the same as the S-Boat’s Phoenix-like renewal warmed Eulalie’s return to her early proving grounds.

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Our arrival at the Brewer Post Marina in Mamaroneck, New York coincided with the marina’s annual barbecue.  There we met Bill who showed us the S-Boat he was restoring.  The vessel’s age–well over sixty–can’t hide its sleek form (I should look so good).  According to Susan Buck, the S-Boat is the oldest one-design class still actively racing with its original boats.  In three years the S-Boat Association will celebrate its 100th season.

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The S-Boat transported Eulalie back in time to the 1970’s when she often saw the S-Boat fleet as she raced out of the American Yacht Club in Rye and the Huguenot Yacht Club in New Rochelle, a short drive from our Mamaroneck berth.  Photo credit: Herreshoff S Boats of Long Island Sound Facebook Page.

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Iroquois (#17) leading, Allegro (#20) and Kandahar II (#22).  In all Hereshoff built 95 S-Boats.  Many are still racing.

For more about the S-Boat see:

http://www.herreshoff-s-wlis.org/History.html

 

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Hell Gate: “The waters, like wild beasts” Claude Rust

By the time Eric realized he had misread the guidance regarding the timing of passing through Hell Gate, the gateway from Manhattan into Long Island Sound, it was too late. Elizabeth Jean was already on her way up the East River and we were an hour later than the guides recommended.  Would the hour make a difference between having 5 knots of current working in our favor or against us?  We would soon know.

The video below (not of our passage) shows Hell Gate’s wild beasts unleashed.

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Our East River Passage provided an interesting perspective of a number of the City’s most spectacular bridges.

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Approaching the Brooklyn Bridge.  Bridge construction began in 1869 and concluded in 1883.  John Augustus Roebling, the bridge’s designer, died from tetanus following amputation of toes crushed while inspecting the bridge site.  His son, Washington Roebling, took over the project.  He suffered from decompression sickness from inspecting the underwater chambers used for building the stone towers.  Emily, Roebling’s wife, played a critical role in supervising construction during the 11 years of construction following her husband’s incapacitation.

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The 4 blue spheres on each bridge support distinguishes the Manhattan Bridge which opened in 1909.

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The Williamsburg Bridge, the second bridge to be built over the East River (1903) was the first suspension bridge with all-steel support towers.  The bridge connects the Lower East side with Williamsburg in Brooklyn.

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Looking back on the Hell Gate Bridge, an inverted bowstring truss bridge.   In the background is the Robert Kennedy, or Tri-borough, Bridge.

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Elizabeth Jean at the center of the screen approaches the Hell Gate Bridge with 11 knots of speed-over-ground, over five knots are provided by current in our favor.  Eric’s calculations turned out to be alright after all.

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Approaching the Whitestone Bridge.

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The Throgs Neck Bridge, the last bridge on the East River, seen from Long Island Sound.

For more information regarding the East River Bridges see:

Know Your Landmarks: Bridges of the East River

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“To have a daughter is to know a special joy” Anonymous

As we were preparing Elizabeth Jean to depart Seattle three years ago, our daughter Beth (the Elizabeth in Elizabeth Jean) sent us a picture of an attractive New York City boat basin.  “Here’s where to come in when you get Elizabeth Jean to New York City to visit me,” she enthused.  While we have worked hard to manage our own and others’ expectations about our journey, we privately kept alive the goal of arriving in the New York area to visit Beth.  July 4th, therefore, provided a dual celebration: fulfillment of Beth’s optimistic prediction, along with our nation’s 240th birthday.  This visit also provided a daughterly bookend to our 2013 visit with Jean after our 1000 mile trip from Seattle to Newport Beach, California.  Our daughters’ enthusiastic support  of their namesake’s journey has buoyed her and our spirits along our way.

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Joyously together.

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Seastreak, a high speed ferry, docked ten minutes from our marina, provided an attractive alternative to accessing the Big Apple for a  busy holiday weekend.

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From the ferry’s deck we relaxed and enjoyed New York Harbor and scouted Elizabeth Jean’s route to the East River.

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Forty minutes after departing, Seastreak deposited us near Wall Street where July 4th celebrations were in full swing.  A short walk from the ferry dock is the site of George Washington’s inauguration as our first president.

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We celebrated the festivities at Riis Beach to the vocal stylings of Raycee Jones, one of Beth’s college friends.

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Captain Sullivan.  Action Hero.

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We both got the memo to wear blue, but apparently not the memo about looking at each other while we dance.

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A captain’s kiss.


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 In September 2013, Jean helped us celebrate our arrival in Southern California. To have two daughters is to know joy’s abundance.

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“The Gathering Wind: Sandy Hook” Gregory Freeman

We arrived in Sandy Hook, New Jersey a couple of months shy of the fourth anniversary of Hurricane Sandy’s October 29, 2012 landfall.   Our marina, the Sandy Hook Bay Marina, reopened this year, an example of the rebuilding that has occurred since Sandy’s visit.

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Sandy crashes the coast.

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Sandy affected 24 states, including the eastern seaboard from Florida to Maine and Michigan and Wisconsin.  She was the deadliest and most destructive hurricane of the 2012 Atlantic hurricane season, and the second-costliest hurricane in United States history ($71.4 billion in damage)

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Off the coast of the Northeastern United States the storm became the largest recorded Atlantic hurricane measured by diameter.  Her winds spanned 1,100 miles.

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A larger-than-life sized replica of the HMS Bounty tried to outrun the Hurricane but failed off North Carolina’s coast with tragic results.  Freeman’s “Gathering Wind,” which provided the title for this post provides a detailed account of the disaster.Sandy damaged-boats-morgan-marina-sayreville Raritan Bay

Sandy also savaged vessels in harbors as shown in the above photo from Raritan Bay.  At the Sandy Hook Bay Marina six feet of floodwater deposited the marina’s tenant vessels a quarter mile away.

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Sandy Hook Bay Marina today.  Sand dredged from the bay raised the land by several feet to meet new standards.  Elizabeth Jean relaxes, secure behind higher wave screens in the center of the dock (to the left of the man in the red shirt).

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The streets show signs of rebuilding as well.

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A peaceful Sandy Hook in sunset’s glow.

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