Burning Dinosaurs (NYC to the Great Dismal Swamp)

0730. Day one. Not quite the crack of dawn departure we’d hoped for, and I hope we won’t regret the extra hour in two days. At least we’ve got 2 knots of current with us so we are *flying* out of New York.

There are approximately 200 small fishing boats off of Sandy Hook, all zigging and zagging around us at high speeds. “Sitting duck” feels appropriate and I can’t wait to be out of New Jersey.

0130. First night. Flat calm, huge bright moon, incredible stars, no traffic around. Download a new book and revel in the wonder of a perfect night watch. 37° but we’re running the Dickinson and motoring hard — burning dinosaurs, as Jon puts it. My book is really good and the time passes quickly.

1230. Day two. Zephyr is officially 7 months old, and we have enough cellphone signal (with the booster Jon installed) for me to even Instagram a little celebratory post. It’s getting warmer already and we let Z sit in the cockpit on his own for the first time (in his Salus life jacket — the only one we’ve found with enough room for his chubby little cheeks). He’s extraordinarily pleased with the ability to explore all the lines by himself. I’m extraordinarily pleased to not be carrying a 19-lb weight around my neck for a bit.

2100. Night two. Lumpy and bumpy. Bow is repeatedly plunging under waves, showering our entire boat in a wave of crystal drops. We’re pushing the engine harder than we ever have. Jon reassures me it’s meant to do this, and I don’t have to worry… but of course I do. We’re relying on this little engine 100%, fighting headwinds and tides and darkness in hopes of making it somewhere tomorrow.

There’s a little water leaking from somewhere up front, so when I go to check on Zephyr (sound asleep despite the 6’ vertical plunges his bed is taking and the constant wash of glowing sea water over his hatch —- phosphorescence is amazing, but seeing it while looking up through the hatch is less fun) I step on wet laundry. “Squish” is never a good feeling underfoot (and I should probably find a new home for the laundry…)

Times like this, it’s hard to not think about how small we are. 33’ of plastic keeping us all afloat on this washing machine of an ocean. These miles are extra slow and painfully earned. I watch the “distance to destination” marker to make sure it’s actually still going down. In my 3-hr watch we make less than 9 miles of progress. Zephyr could just about crawl faster, and he currently only crawls in reverse. I start wondering if we’ll ever make it in, if I screwed up our weather-window, if entering an unmarked inlet in the dark in New Jersey is really a bad idea (it is), and why we continue to willingly *choose* to put ourselves in these situations.

Luckily my book is really good (“The Color Purple”) so I box my worries up and put them aside and focus on reading and staying warm until Jon’s watch instead.

0530. I went off at 0500 and Z woke up 30 minutes later; this is the result of very bad watch planning. Feed him, try to get him to take an early nap with me… it’s not happening. Pack him into some pillows down below so I can keep half an eye on him while also paying attention to the 1000’ warship entering my channel and the quickly changing conditions. Mother Nature doesn’t mess around and this requires full attention on the boat and what’s happening around us. Zephyr chooses this moment to have a blowout poop. Well played, young sir.

Jon tackles the poop. I tackle the nav. We swap battle ship updates with stool consistency comments. I think about how this will probably qualify as “retrospective fun” one day, but right now I’m just tired.

1530. Day three. We’ve made it. Into Norfolk (getting yelled at by submarines — multiple!! — and haunted by container ships), fueled up (new dinosaurs required), through our first bridge opening and even up a damn lock. We tried to anchor outside the lock but the lock keeper convinced us to lock up and tie to the dock instead.

While we’re waiting for him to open the lock, I’m driving us in slow circles up and down the skinny channel, killing time. Suddenly we stop moving and I have no steerage. Shoot. I’ve run aground! I up the revs. Nothing. Up the revs more. Steer hard to port… we move a tiny bit, but no forward progress. Max revs. I send Jon to the bow to see if he can see what we’ve hit. I’m looking at the depth sounder (which still says 12’… so confusing) trying to figure out how on earth I ran us aground already when I finally look down and realize… I’m in neutral.

I guess you could say I’m a little tired.

But we lock through (“are you doing a pee dance?” the lock keeper asks me. “No, it’s a baby dance!” I say, laughing. Zephyr is tucked into the wrap and I’m bouncing up and down to keep him happy while we lock up.

1630. We’ve made it!!! It’s 61° and sunny and FLAT calm and incredibly beautiful and we’re in Virginia (!!!) and we’ve already made new friends and I am SO HAPPY I cry a few little tears of gratitude.

1900. Bedtime. For all three of us.

When hell(‘s gate) freezes over… (in NYC)

It’s never the passages that stress the living heck out of me. It’s the short jaunts through hectic places.

Today? I nearly killed us.

A slight exaggeration, maybe, but as we came out of Hell’s Gate (through the East River, along Manhattan, and under the Brooklyn Bridge) the boat traffic suddenly got CRAZY. I’d been merrily steering us through 3-5 knots of current, navigating past tugs and barges and all other traffic no problem, when Z started melting down (overdue for his nap + working really hard on top teeth = not his good time of day).

I was so focused on trying to soothe him and help him fall asleep that I stopped paying the 110% attention that you need to pay around here, and looked up just in time to see a ferry literally barreling down on top of us.

Cue evasive manoeuvers and non-lady-like sailor words.

Granted, I *technically* had the right of way, but in our tiny 33’ sailboat going 8 knots with current sweeping us down the river and his giant heavy ferry charging straight at our Port beam, I didn’t exactly have time to start a debate.

I swung the wheel hard to Port, he cleared us by 100’ and then another water taxi was revealed directly behind him, also coming straight for us. We did one of those hallway dances (“I’ll go right… no you go right… I’ll go left…  no you go left!”) before finally passing starboard to starboard, again way too close for comfort.

It’s hard, in these moments, to realize how vulnerable we are, how one simple wrong move could be the end of everything, and how much responsibility we carry. It’s not just Jon and I anymore…  now it’s the little guy too.

We do pretty well with balancing the baby underway, but I definitely need to keep working on how to meet his needs and keep us safe in tense situations. Today was a strong reminder of that.

On the upside? We’re through Hell’s Gate and tied up on the Hudson now! This puts us in a much better location for jumping south, when the next weather window materializes. It also puts us a nice protected, warm location for tomorrow’s forecast 1” of snow (!!!). Was bound to happen eventually…

But for now… glass of wine, quiet reflection, and early bedtime 🙂


How do you eat an elephant? (in Port Washington, NY)

(One bite at a time)

(We’ve made it through Long Island Sound!)

Night watch in Buzzard's Bay in November -- BRRRR

Sailing with Zephyr - six month old baby on a boat

I literally haven’t wanted to check the weather for the New Jersey coast because Buzzards Bay and Long Island Sound felt like such huge stretches to get through. Maybe especially because when we came through here in 2014 we had a couple truly awful days of fighting tides, awful seas and wind that always seemed to be on the nose!!

So while we loved New Bedford and thought we might be there a while longer, when a perfectly windless weather window came up Sunday night we decided to go for it!

Leaving at night is a little weird feeling — it’s hard to tell how far away lights are and you get extra attached to your nav instruments — but watching the sun rise over Block Island with nary a breath of wind was 100% worth it.

Think maybe he’s teething again?

Sidenote: Have I mentioned I like motoring? I’m like a fair weather sailor who reeeally likes going new places so sometimes has to sail 😉 But especially when the lows are below freezing (our new reality), motoring means the diesel stove can be running and the boat can be toasty warm. It actually got hot last night and we had to crack hatches to let more cold air in. Standing watch in the cockpit with warm air just billowing out the companionway is a pretty great feeling too 🙂

Chilly watch with 6-month old baby Zephyr all bundled up

Anyways, we reserved a slip in Port Washington and snaked our way in here super late last night, shining flashlights to make sure we didn’t run into any unlit boats at anchor. The glow of NYC lights up the area quite nicely, and the staff made it easy by letting us tie up wherever we wanted.

Sadly the $16/night days are over (New York is living up to its reputation with prices in the $70-$100/night range) but it sure was nice to wake up at a dock with easy WiFi for my 8 am meetings and hot showers for everyone!

Zephyr crunched the numbers & determined we can’t afford to stay here forever

Zephyr’s continued to be a little champ… he spends most of the day in the Boba wrap with me, the Onya carrier with Jon, or desperately trying to crawl inside on the floor. He even managed some jolly jumping while underway on this last trip (best. invention. ever)!

I will admit there’s some irony to the baby sleeping through the night while his parents are awake every 3 hours, especially since we haven’t figured out how to get sleep during the day (it’s hard to be on watch AND on baby duty, which means off watches are spent on baby duty… a conundrum I’m sure we’ll spend many more days working on!).

Pouring rain at Capri Marina in Port Washington, NY - thank god for the rain cover on the Onya!

Anyways, so far we’ve managed to balance cruising in November while working with a baby and having some fun… so fingers crossed it continues!!

Trying to catch up on sleep after our passage while Zephyr is wiiiiide awake

…but first, family nap time!


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