Saturday, 12 October 2019

27 September Aquarium

On Friday evening the aquarium is half price, $20 instead of $40, and we had time to go along and see the sea. We live on a boat and are keen divers and we still want to visit old boats, maritime museums and aquariums. This is a nice one. We weren't happy to see dolphins in the collection. And not happy seeing these intelligent animals being used as entertainment for humans.
Sharks in tanks swimming round and round in circles can educate on the beauty and encourage people to support preservation, coral reef exhibits were well done and we saw one of our favourites, Banggai cardinals which come only from Lembeh in Sulawesi. We've seen them in the natural habitat.

Banggai cardinal fish

The jellyfish were delightfully photogenic.

25 September Baltimore arts

The tourist information centre set me up with free buses and gallery guides for a day of arty indulgence. They also have a post office counter but the two women who were manning the counter the day I was there were woefully uninformed about completing any transaction more complicated than selling a local stamp. I had an envelope to send to the UK for which the selection of most appropriate service and the costs took a quarter of an hour and would have been longer if I hadn't checked on the internet. Bless. They tried.
My trip out to the Museum of Art was easier and I was soon absorbing their collection of Impressionist art. Like the Met in NY Baltimore also has a copy of Degas' little dancer. After Degas' death 69 copies were cast they are in museums and private collections.
Degas' Little Dancer

Baltiimore art gallery

Washington memorial

Peabody library reading room
After paintings I hopped the bus back to original centre of Baltimore which sits atop a hill amongst the vast spread of university faculties. The Washington monument, a towering column with Washington on top looks over the George Peabody Library with it's collection of 7,000 old books, America's first cathedral and the Walters Art Museum.
Baltimore basilica
The Walters Art Museum houses the personal collection of a father and son who made their money distilling and selling whiskey. The eclectic collection ranges from medieval religious artefacts, paintings and now extends to include contemporary pieces.
carved crystal rock


It was a lovely afternoon so a opted to walk back to the waterfront instead of catching the bus except took a wrong turning and found myself in a sketchy part of town. Plenty of people hanging out around the department of Social Services. But I've lived in London where walk tall, walk with purpose and don't make eye contact is a standard, ie act like a local and not a tourist. I probably wasn't in a vulnerable place; it was an unknown place. Especially after David had read me the fact that Baltimore has one of the highest murder rates...
Back in familiar city centre I slowed the pace and walked back to the dinghy dock for David to pick me up

23 September Baltimore

Inner harbour

Looking at the charts deciding on where to go next we spotted Baltimore had a couple of anchorages in the heart of the city so why not visit? We anchored to the east of Anchorage marina and west of the area called Canton. We found we could either leave the dink on the free public dinghy dock and walk across the road to Safeway supermarket, or turn right to West Marine. The holding isn't great. We shifted 10m in a strong wind and other boats took a couple of attempts before their anchor set.
To go into the city we dinghied half a mile north and tied up to the dock at Captain James restaurant which was safe and welcoming. From here it was a fifteen minute walk.
On the first day we bought tickets to view the historic vessels that are permanently docked in the inner harbour; a submarine which saw action at Pearl Harbour, a Coast Guard boat, a lightship and the last sail powered wooden boat of the US Navy.

on stern of the submarine

USS Constellation

20 September Chesapeake City

Chesapeake City basin

Convenient, compact, historic and friendly. Chesapeake City is a little treasure on the south side of the C&D canal. There's a recently dredged basin of 3m depth where ten boats can anchor on short scope and 60m of town dock where you can tie up alongside for 24 hours with access to power and water. We were last to arrive in the evening and anchored. Next day we moved on to the dock. The only cost is $10 for water and $15 if you wish to take power. We took water and Jackster got a much needed clean and tank fill.
Add caption

C&D Canal museum
 The town sits on the land side of the basin and on the canal side is a Naval Corps base and a canal museum in the building which was the original waterwheel for the lock. Today the canal is lower, deeper and wider and there are no locks.

In the early morning there was a river mist lending an ethereal quality to the stillness.

17 September Sandy Hook to C&D Canal

The anchorage at Sandy Hook is great – much better than I had expected – and a great staging spot. We checked the forecast once more, as you do, and it still looks like a good broad reach down to Cape May.
The reality was less wind than forecast so more motoring, Perhaps if we gone further than 3 miles offshore as we did we would have found stronger breezes. As we approached Cape May at 7am the tide was about to turn north, winds had increased to 20 knots from the north east which would be upwind going up the Delaware. Interestingly local cruisers had done a sharp intake of breath when we mentioned Cape May “Oh, the seas get really rough there.” Yes, there is a large area of shallow bank extending south from the Cape where the seas will become confused as you turn to enter the Delaware but it is a short distance.
Turning north east into the Delaware brought the wind around to a close reach, too close to make the angle without a tack between anchored oil tankers on the west shore. One tack to starboard and one to port brought us to the east side of the shipping channel. It's fifty miles of nothing to see up to the entrance to the Chesapeake and Delaware canal. With a fair current we arrived late afternoon and with time to enter the C&D, tide with us again, and reach Chesapeake City basin before sunset.
late afternoon in C&D

Chesapeake City basin is a little treasure. It sits halfway along the canal, has a marina for small boats, anchoring space for about ten snugly and 130' of free town dock. We were the last boat to arrive and and one failed attempt found a snug spot for the night in about 3.2m depth. The basin was dredged last year.
The trip from Sandy Hook to Chesapeake City was 185nm and took us 30 hours – more motoring than sailing.

15 September Port Washington to Sandy Hook via the East River

Weather forecast checked. Tide predictions checked. Thunderbirds are GO! For the 160nm trip from Port Washington to Cape May via Sandy Hook anchorage.
We should have north easterly winds established from early on Tuesday morning but to be at Sandy Hook which is where we'd sail out to open water in time we need to transit East river New York today. The tide flows south from midday and lasts until 6pm.
We break out the anchor and clean off the growth on the chain and mud from the anchor and motor out to Long Island sound. We've been in these brackish waters too long and furry growth on the hull robs us of half a knot. David had tried diving to clean us but when he found zero visibility he gave the prop a dusting and had to leave the rest.
There's not much commercial traffic on the northern part of the river and the current hasn't built yet so it is a worry when we suddenly loose three knots of speed just after passing a cargo vessel. We check around the waterline for snagged lines. Nothing seen. Do a circle to check if we've hit counter current. No. Put the engine into reverse and forward and still we are slow. David's checked the engine and propeller shaft, increased and decreased engine revs. This is a mystery. David questions whether the gear box has failed. My theory is we dragging a line on the keel or rudder because I feel the steering is heavy.
Then, just as we are looking for a spot to anchor and further investigate, we slowly increase speed and as I look behind us I see a 6' length of wood bob to the surface. We hadn't seen it on the surface ahead so it must have come from underneath us. Mystery solved: the wood must have been kicked up by the propeller of the cargo vessel and lodged at the front of our skeg and then, mercifully, it popped out. Phew!
Brooklyn Bridge

Staten Island ferry

Now we can return to enjoying the scenery. We're approaching the critical Hell's Gate where the Harlem river joins and the river is at it's narrowest. The current is now running at 4 knots. There are eddies in the water and ferries up ahead. It's all new navigation.

Then to add to the stress load a Coastguard rib pulls alongside and demands to board for a safety inspection. I ask if they can wait until we are through this narrow section, until we are past the thrilling Manhattan skyline and they say no so three people come aboard; one young woman and two young men wearing heavy boots. First item on the safety check is sanitation. Do we have our holding tank locked shut? David is continuing to helm and I show the officer the location of the valve. The handle has been removed and put in a drawer. Second item for checking is fire extinguishers – all OK and in date. The life vests, a life ring and whistle for attracting attention. OK. Then they want to that the lowest part of the hull is dry and the bilge working. Our lowest bilge is in the engine room so I show them where it is. OK. The final requirement is to check our cruising permit and passports and we receive a certificate of inspection. The Coastguard rib pulls alongside to pick them up and we are left a final gift, a long black scratch along the hull.
USCG inspection mid NY


By the time our guests leave we have reached the south end of Manhattan and the Staten Island ferry terminal. From here it's still another couple of hours down the river to the anchorage. We arrive at 5pm and find a nice sheltered spot next to two other yachts. It's much better than we'd expected with wind and wave shelter from north through to southwest, a sandy bottom and it's quiet.
Polly navigation

Last view of NY

Just after we set the anchor I receive a message from home with the sad news my Dad has passed away. He was 87 and had lived a long and happy life.

14 September The Met

Until yesterday morning it looked like we had a good weather window to make the journey to the Delaware river. The calculation was to leave Port Washington at 7am to catch a favourable tide through Hell's Gate and out to Sandy Hook and then ride a north easterly to Cape May at the entrance to the Delaware at dawn the next day. The plan was defenestrated when the wind strength forecast increased to 30, gusting 35 knots, possible squalls and short interval 3m seas. Chris Parker described the outlook as boisterous. There looks like a better option on Tuesday.
My better option for the day was a last trip into the city to visit the Metropolitan Museum of Art, one of the world's greatest museums. The $25 entry ticket is valid for three days. I had one day so selected my favourite things to begin and worked on from there.
The Met

rooftop gallery

Little dancer

Van Gogh

Rock 'n' Roll exhibition

12 September NYC more sightseeing

Times Square

Grand Central Terminal
 If it's Wednesday it must be more sightseeing.  Today's tour took us north from Penn station to Times Square, Grand Central railroad  Terminal and then seventy floors up the Rockerfeller Center for a elevated view of the city.
view north from Rockerfeller tower

View south to Empire State
St Patrick's Cathedral
 To the north is Central Park and to the south we had a fine view of the Empire State BUIlding and on to the Battery where we were two days ago.   It's quite staggering when you try to visualise how the land would have looked before the first settlers to how it is today, changed by man and full to bursting with humankind.
Back on the ground there was more time for reflection with a quick look see at the interior of St Patrick's cathedral on 5th Avenue.  Scene of many film scenes.

We ended the day with a stroll through Central Park and caught a subway back to the train station and home.  It's tiring being a tourist.

Central Park pond

10 September Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island

Interesting fact; entrance to the national parks at Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island museum are free. You only pay for the ferry to take you there and, if there are tickets available to climb to the crown of Liberty, the add on tours. When I looked online back in May crown tours were already sold out for September. Today the first available date is in December.
When we arrive at the dock to board the ferry there are long lines of barriers for crowd control, but today there are no lines of people and we walk straight on. An advantage of visiting NY in quieter September. The ride is quick, the upper decks full of passengers with cameras at the ready to catch that perfect shot.

Life size

Disembarked we are shown where to collect our free audio guides and we begin exploring and learning. The story of the Statue of Liberty is very interesting and seeing this icon of America close up well worth the trip. There's a new museum with lots more visual info to complete the story and a full size replica of her face.

Ellis Island registration hall

Those who arrived

Ellis Island entrance

It took us more than two hours to see everything before we continued on to Ellis Island. The museum in the building is vast and we were suffering from information overload. Three floors of exhibits, illustrations and history took the rest of the day and I think we caught almost the last ferry of the day back to The Battery. The weather had improved with the sun shining more later in the day and this was when I got the better pictures to remember the day.
However, we weren't finished. We'd arranged to meet an old friend, Laurie Griffith, who lives in New York. We met Laurie on our honeymoon in Africa eleven years ago and have kept in touch through Facebook. Laurie, us and two girls from Bosnia who were in Africa as medical volunteers booked the same three day kayaking and camp on the Zambezi.
Navigating the NY Metro in rush hour was a challenge in interpretation for newbies to the city. First I made the mistake of getting on a train heading south not north and having to find the corresponding uptown line at the next station. Line found and we board the train and it's an express meaning not stopping at all stations. But does it stop at the one we want to get off at? No. So we got off and waited for the following 'all stops' service. I thought I was a savvy traveller on the underground but the NY subway beat me today.
In the end we made our rendezvous on time, had a wonderful catch up with Laurie and a tasty barbecue dinner. By the time we got back to Jackster it was past 11pm and we were tuckered out.

8 September New York City

It's a beautiful day to have a first taste of New York City. The train drops us into Penn station in the heart of Manhattan and we walk the length of Broadway to the Battery on the south tip of the island. Interesting fact; Broadway runs at a diagonal across Manhattan island and is an old Indian trail.
Little Italy

Supreme Court sqaure

On the way we see the Empire State Building, Flat Iron building, a farmers market, Little Italy with roadside tables, a bite of dim sum lunch in Chinatown and then on to the judicial and financial area. We couldn't pass the World Trade Center without pausing to view the new buildings and the memorials; where the bases of the twin towers had been are vanishing pools and surrounding the pools a marble wall inscribed with the names of everyone who perished on 11 September 2001.

9/11 Memorial

9/11 Museum

It's a Sunday (part of the reason for choosing this walk) and the offices are closed, roads quieter and time to meander down Wall Street, stroll past the Supreme Court and finally find ourselves at the Staten Island ferry. From here we could see the Statue of Liberty, but it was late in the afternoon by now. Time to take the subway back to Penn Station and catch the train to Port Washington. Fortunately the road from Port Washington station to the dinghy dock at the bottom of Main Street is down hill because our feet were tired and we were tired.