10 January 2011

The Ticking Clock

Having decided to wait for the 'right' weather, I moved the Blue Moon to a marina right on the Manasquan River. It wasn't as peaceful as the Glimmer Glass basin -- or as cheap -- but when you're waiting in cold weather, it sure helps to be able to step ashore for food or a hot shower.

I hoped it wouldn't be a long wait. Every night, before hitting the rack, I'd study the weather forecast for the next day, looking for a wind with some South, and preferably some West in it. Every day, I'd walk out to the inlet to check the seas and watch the one or two sailboats that dared to make the journey south, from New York to Manasquan. I didn't see any sailboats heading north.

Of course, there were always big power boats that went out, but I didn't count them.

Every day, the temptation was strong to just go for it! Just to get it over with, one way or the other.

And this irrational impulse was strengthened by the daily troop of dock watchers who would come by to admire the Blue Moon and ask me where I was headed. When they heard I was waiting for a fair wind, a certain number of them -- actually, quite a large number of them -- would sniff the air and say something like "Well, my brother-in-law, Tony, was out fishing yesterday, and he had no problem..."

So what's wrong with you, buddy? was the unspoken implication.

One or two questions would unveil the fact that Tony had thumbed his nose at danger from the bridge of his 43' Egg Harbor SportYacht, with its twin 660 hp Caterpillar engines, but this fact didn't seem relevant to his feat of seamanship.

I tried not to let it bother me, but... it did. Whenever one of these dock watchers sniffed at me, the urge to just go for it! spiked higher.

Luckily, a daily antidote was also provided by my location at the marina.

I was berthed on a 'T' dock. A 'T' dock is shaped just like a 'T'. There are usually a bunch of berths along both sides of the T's stem, with the top of the T used for a fuel dock or transient berths.

Because of the traffic along the Manasquan River, I had insisted on an 'inside' berth, so the poor Blue Moon wouldn't be dashed against the dock by every passing power boat. This was deemed highly irregular, but since most of the dock was empty, they allowed me to stay at the last inside berth on the pier, just inside of the fuel dock.

Since the marina was the very first marina inside the Inlet, this gave me the chance to talk to many captains who had just made the jump from New York, and occasionally from points south.

One example will suffice. Tom, a 30-something professional man, sailed a 42' Jeanneau out of Barnegat Bay...

"It was such a beautiful day, with a great breeze blowing," said Tom. "I knew this would be one of the last sailing days of the season, so I thought we would head out Barnegat Inlet, sail around a bit, and then head back in.

"As soon as we passed the end of the sea wall, I knew we were in trouble. There were these huge waves crashing over the sea wall, and the wind was a lot stronger than it had been on the bay. There was white water all around us because of the shoals that are all around that inlet. Just this narrow channel from the inlet into open water."

(My cruising guide says that Barnegat Inlet -- about 20 miles south of Manasquan Inlet -- is 'unreliable', subject to frequent shoaling, but I didn't interrupt Tom.)

"I wanted to turn around and head back in," he said, "but there was no way to turn around in that narrow channel -- we would have ended up on the shoals for sure -- so I just gritted my teeth and tried to keep her in the channel as we headed out.

"It wasn't easy, with the wind blowing from the north and a strong current. I wasn't sure the engine was powerful enough to keep her in the channel, but somehow we made it.

"It was pretty rough out there, but after talking it over, neither one of us wanted to go back through that inlet, so we decided to sail up here, because Manasquan Inlet is safer. So we put up the reefed main and jib, and motor-sailed up here."

"We both got sea sick pretty bad," Joe piped in. They both shook their heads, as if remembering it. "It was my first time on a sailboat."

Tom laughed. "We work together. I told him it would be a fun day. Well," he looked at Joe, "it can't get any worse than that!"

"Yeah," Joe said. "I thought I was going to die."

"But we didn't! Hoo-hooo!"

They high-fived each other, two young men, just happy to be alive, and I handed them two open beers. Tom took a long pull of his, eyed the Blue Moon on the other side of the dock, and asked me where I was headed.

I said I was headed nowhere at the moment. Just waiting for some decent weather.

"Smart," he said somberly. "Smarter than us."

It was a long wait. That north wind blew for a week and a half. Helena came back and took me home for a few days, told me it didn't matter how long it took, and brought me back again.

The north wind blew, and it blew, and it blew.

And finally, on the 23rd of November, it stopped blowing.

>>> Next Episode: Going For It

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  1. Don't we all love the dock watchers...

    Enjoying every word of your blog.

  2. I read every word of your blog as well. I want an advanced copy of your up coming book.... :-)


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