Once again, Steve Blecher's 53' J-160, Javelin takes a tried and true crew on a summer cruise. The Crew:
Steve (Dartmouth '64) boat Javelin, home port Westbrook, CT
Rick Van Mell (Dartmouth '63), boat Vanishing Animal, home port San Francisco Bay
Paul Wharton (Duke '64), ex-boat Golden Eye, home port Stamford, CT
Michael Luskin (Harvard '73) boat Turtleheart, home port Mamaroneck, NY
A fun romp planned to stretch Javelin's legs to familiar ports of call. Fishers Island, Newport and Bristol, then roaming as wind and weather permit until returning home to Westbrook.
That was The Plan, and Shopping List, but you'll just have to read on to see what happened when the wind hit The Plan!
Pictures by xxx and Rick Van Mell, and are grouped between days. There may be even be a few movie clips too.
The table below summarizes daily runs and the date is a link to that day's log. Elasped time is generally time under way and has sometimes been adjusted for lunch stops. Cells with a darker background color represent changes from the original Plan.
Rick's eastbound flight, Alaska #28, took a 300 mile detour to avoid a nasty line of thunderstorms threatening to close down multiple east coast airports. Instead of the more usual and direct great circle route north of Denver, Chicago and Detroit, it passed south of Denver, even Springfield, Illinois, and Charlotte, North Carolina, crossing the mouth of Cheasapeake Bay south of Washington, DC and turning north over the Atlantic Ocean. Flying at 35,000 feet, the flight was even with the tops of giant cumulous with white tops and black bottoms. Starting the glide path from there, the flight raced north off the coast of New Jersey, occassionally vering east to avoid big cells, and entered the JFK landing pattern to the east of the airport. One long curve back toward the black front and we were on the ground. Even before we reached the gate there were drops of rain on the windows, and no sooner did we arrive at the gate, but the captian came on and said that we were lucky: the airport had just been shut down. While passengers could get off, the ground crew couldn't open the plane to get baggage off until the thunderstorm passed.
Foirtunately, Rick had his bag with him and Steve was waiting in the cellphone lot. In the time it took Rick to get to the curb, the dry pavement had become a lake with sheets of rain. It was a long, slow drive back to Scarsdale. But, Steve, Amy and Rick were joined by Paul and Eleanor, and Michael and Judy for a delightful dinner at the Metro diner.
You would think that a July local cruise would be a casual affair. But no, captain Steve was anxious to get under way, so it was all hands on deck at 0600 for breakfast followed by shopping. Departing Horseguard Lane at 7:08, we stopped at the deli to get sandwiches and cold cuts, then on to shop at the market. In and out in 17 minutes with Paul gathering the fresh fruit and produce while Rick & Steve picking up everything else. Back at Steve's house by 0755, we sorted our groceries and added things already there - like Paul's frozen lasagana and Michael's world Class Turkey chili. With everything stowed, we departed for Javelin in Westbrook, CT at 0807.
We arrived at 0948 and ran a caravan of carts down the dock with food and duffels. While Rick stowed the food, Steve and Paul emptied the old water from the tanks and refilled with fresh water, took off the sail cover and stowed the shore power cord. Then there was the annual first-of-the-season clearing the air conditining water filter in the bilge. There already was a Heat Advisory posted and we knew we would want it. Even at 1100 the temperature in the cabin when we got the AC working was 91 degrees.
We shoved the dock at 1139 and headed out into Long Island Sound. The wind was light southwest, but built slowly to 9 - 10 knots during the day. We powered out to Long Sand Shoal west buoy, then set sails at 1208 and headed east for Fishers Island. Even in light wind Javelin sailed at impressive speed. doing 6 knots in 10 knots of wind.
We were in contact with Bob & Mary Ann Miller aboard Mast Transit and we agreed to rendezvous in West Harbor of Fishers Island for dinner aboard Javelin. With the wind going lighter as we approached Fishers Island, we dropped sails at 1504 and powered the last 7 miles into the harbor, arriving at 1625.
We found a good place to anchor at the outer end of the buoyed channel in 15 feet of water. We rigged the kellet to keep the anchor line from wrapping around the boat if the weather went light, and the riding sail to keep us headed into the wind. Bob & Mary Ann came aboard about 1815 and we enjoyed nibbles and beverages in the cockpit while watching a Wednesday night beer can race round a mark a quarter mile away. With the grill rigged Steve invited Bob to be the Grillmaster at the stern while Rick made up the salad and baked potatoes below. It turned out that the grill was less that super hot which took a while to finish off the stakes, but that was OK, because Javelin's litte microwave took over 30 minutes to soften the 5 giant potatoes - cutting them into quarters finally finished the job.
But a delicious dinner it was and the sun had set befor Bob & Mary Ann slipped into their dinghy and headed off to the inner harbor where Mast Transit was on a mooring. We were all in our bunks by 2200.
When the NOAA forecast reads, "Without hyperbole, and while there are uncertainties, this type of thunderstorm environment is uncommonly if rarely seen in Southern New England," it calls for some extra thought before going to sea. In short it was a Gale Warning: SW winds 20 to 25 kt with gusts up to 35 kt. Seas 3 to 5 ft. Plus potential for severe thunderstorms. Even before tucking in Wednesday night we had agreed to leave early as the worst was due in the afternoon. Also, at a minimum Javelin's 75' high mainsail would be a handful, so we put the sail cover on and planned to motor sail with just a jib for stability.
We hauled the anchor at 0717 and were on our way in 10 knots of wind. It was already quite warm despite the SW wind. Clearing the harbor into Fishers Island Sound, the wind picked up to 13 knots and with engine, a little current and the jib with a two-roll reef we were doing 9.6 over the bottom. We stayed in the 9 - 10 knot range as we passed Watch Hill, the beginning of Rhode Island, and headed for Point Judith 15 miles to the east.
By 1053 we were past Pt. Judith and gybed to go up the east side passage into Narraganset Bay and Newport. Gusts were up to 22 and seas slowly building. We furled the jib at 1119 and entered Newport Harbor at 1125. New York Yacht Club assigned us to mooring 506 and by 1138 we were all secure.
The AC was immediately started as it was again 90 degrees in the cabin. Roast beef sandwiches did the trick for lunch. Then Steve thought about going for a day sail. As they went on deck, the wind gusting, inside the harbor, to 23 blew Paul's hat overboard. Scratch the day sail idea.
Paul hailed a passing skiff and the hat was retrieved. Rick buried himself in the log and shortly after 1600 the log and 71 pictures were posted.
By 1700 Michael & Judy had arrived at NYYC's Harbour Court clubhouse and Steve, Paul and Rick hailed Navette, the NYYC tender for a ride ashore. With gale warnings and a severe thunderstorm watch still posted by NOAA, we packed a bag with foul weather gear in case we needed it to return after dinner. We gathered in hot, humid and hazy weather on the grass and chairs overlooking the dock and harbor and enjoyed a beverage until Chet and Arlene Salomon arrived to join us for dinner. Steve had intentionally reserved an inside table, rather than a patio table, in case the weather turned early.
The NYYC Thursday Seafood Buffet was a piscatorial delight with offerings of shrimp, clams, oysters, chowder and salads for openers, then on to lobster, salmon, fish & chips, and fillet mignon, plus all the sauces. If anyone had more room (which we managed), there were choices of chocolate fudge, lemon bars, macaroons, and puff pastries. No one went hungry.
But, by 1900 the sky had gone to gray with black to the west. The crew climbed aboard Navette and were back aboard Javelin about 1930. A couple of rain drops by 2000 confirmed the obvious: a powerful front was racing upon us. Between 2015 and 2030 the lightning increased and thunder roared. Just after finished the second of two videos we were about to go below when a lighting strike and simultaneous thunder crashed overhead. Steve was below and saw all of our lights flicker. The sailing instruments above the companionway, though still lit up, showed no data. Going below we put laptops and cell phones in the oven to guard again additional EMP surges. Sheets of rain obliterated the view and we could only see the boats closest to us. In 15 minutes, the rain passed on east, the moon was once again visible and scattered clouds masked the red of the fading sunset. We were OK, but the wind speed, boat speed, depth and worst, GPS position on the chartplotter didn't work. Not to worry - there were at least three additional tablet / cellphone navigation systems available.
The crew quietly crawled into their bunks before 2200.
Our Skipper graciously let Rick sleep in until 0645. Though The Plan's breakfast called for scrambled eggs and sausage, all hands voted to switch to yogurt after last night's feast. Alas, a night's rest did not restore any of the ship's sailing instruments to functionality. However, Steve, Paul and Michael all have Aqua Map navigation software on their cell phones/tablet, so the only data point still missing was water depth. As long as we have a chart position, and don't go into very shallow water, we are fine.
Though it was glassy calm in Newport Harbor, the wind oracles hinted at some breeze, and slowly building, 9n the open waters of Rhode Island Sound. We dropped our mooring at 0930 and headed for open water. Off Castle Hill the light southerly was enough to set sail at 0952 off Beaver Tail Light. We headed southwest until reaching the mainland shore, then gybed north to go up the Westside Passage back into Narragansett Bay. It was a perfect time to set the spinnaker.
Making around 4 knots, we worked our way north past Dutch Harbor, then under the Jamestown Bridge. Lunch was tuna salad sandwiches underway. The ride was even more fun as the wind picked up to at least 10 knots and we topped out at 8 knots before approaching the north end of Patience Island. The video below captures the feeling. We dropped the chute and hardened up for the beat back south around Prudence Island. As we approached the turn toward Bristol, there was a large tanker heading south along the shore channel. We tacked away from the channel and dropped sails at 1425, then motored on to Bristol astern of the tanker.
Our first stop was the fuel and pump out dock to empty the holding tanks and take on 20 gallons of diesel. Then on to ur slip for the night. As soon as the shore power cord was connected we started the AC. The thermostat showed 93 degrees in the main cabin when we started - the Heat Advisor that was cancelling events left and right ashore left us literally dripping until the AC did its magic.
It was a comfortable 77 degrees when Rick & Sandy's friend Nancy Hill stepped aboard at 1735. Nancy had been aboard Javelin for day sails before, and had said how we should all come to their house for dinner some time. Rick knew from years of meals at her house in Mountain View how delightful they were, and particularly her apple pies, so this year we took her up on her offer. It turned out that her work commitments precluded joining us for a sail during the afternoon, and the transportation logistics suggested it was easier to bring a feast to Javelin rather than moving the 4 of us to her house in Barrington and back to the boat. And what a feast it was. A saffron risotto with scallops sauteed in wine with a Mediterranean salad. And, of course, an enormous apple pie. As you can see in the pictures below, it was quite a feast.
Nancy departed shortly before 2100 and the very tired, but very happy crew were, once again, in their bunks by 2200.
Steve's tap on the cabin door was Rick's wakeup call. It was 0630. Yesterday's postponed scrambled eggs and sausage breakfast primed the crew for another day of challenges. As we cleared away the breakfast dishes Rick pulled Paul's frozen lasagna from the freezer and put it on an oven rack to defrost for the day. Years of experience suggested that it could take over an hour to heat it if not fully defrosted.
The weather gods were persistent. The Heat Advisory continued, with potentially 3 rounds of thunderstorms. The first was already impacting the waters south of us and we could see their cloud tops, but they were moving mostly east and south and would be past our route shortly. The second was forecast for late morning, but more likely north of us in Massachusetts. The zinger was the most severe arriving in mid to late afternoon exactly where we planned to anchor back in Fishers Island West Habor we had used last Wednesday. We reviewed the various forecasts focusing on the wind direction and strength. With the last round of storms ushering in a cold front, the wind was predicted to shift from the southwest to the northwest. West Harbor is great for a southwester, but open to northwest winds with a rocky lee shore close by if an anchor started to drag in wind and seas. So the chart plotters were examined for options.
We departed the Bristol Town Dock at 0819 in light wind a flat sea and an overcast sky. By the time we had powered under the Newport Bridge at 0937 there was a mostly sunny but humid-hazy sky to the northwest. Once clear of Newport, the ocean swells from multiple days of southwest winds and about 10 knots of wind made for a lumpy push south to Pt. Judith.
We rounded Pt. Judith at 1059, and unfortunately the 10 knot southerly that would have made for a nice reach westward along the Rhode Island shore to Watch Hill had vanished. The mid-day predicted weather was manifesting itself with clouds filling in to our north and the sun disappearing. But as the seas flattened a hazy sun filtered through the clouds and the gray ahead shifted north. Though cumulous clouds continued to build to the north they are far inland. If folklore is any guide however, rain was certainly being predicte by the biting flies that had hitched a ride.
To add to the planning process, Michael's office calls on Friday now required a return to New York by Monday morning. Options from West Harbor would be for us to drop him ashore at the Noank fuel dock on Sunday morning. there he could get an Uber to New London, and a trin to New York. Though we scoured the charts, there were no suitable anchorages where the first part of the stay would have southwest winds, potentially strong, then, by the middle of the night, northwest winds of 18 knots. Captain Steve, always the savvy and cost conscious owner, figured the best possible anchorage with the least risk would be back in Javelin's slip in Westbrook. He pointed out that we had a secure slip tied on both sides in basically a hurricane hole location, power for air conditioning, a restaurant if we wanted it, and a car to take Michael to a better train in New Haven on Sunday morning. No argument there, but the calculus was if we could reach Westbrook, about three and a half hours west of West Harbor, before the storms got there. By the time we cleared Watch Hill at 1330, the various radars and forecast had moved the worst predictions a bit north and later. The decision was made to press on to Westbrook.
As we headed west, we turned our bow into East Harbor to explore how good an option it would be. Pleasant and open, it was certainly good for a lunch stop, and OK for an overnight stay in settled southwest weather. We turned west again and powered on. Beautiful to look at, the bank of white clouds made for great pictures, but were probably giving a whole bunch of people a free car wash. Passing the Thames River and New London at 1500 we started to move under the high cloud shield.
But the fickle weather gods had not finished with us by a long shot. In the flat calm, Paul had opened the hatch in the forward head that is great for getting wind to flow through the boat, and Rick had all of the main cabin/galley and aft stateroom ports and hatches open too. So how did the gods react. Well first they again pushed the gray clouds ashore putting us back in hot, humid sunshine, then blew in a southwest wind. That built up a short sea, and with Javelin making 9.9 knots over the bottom riding a flood current, it wasn't long before water was splashing on the foredeck, into the forward head, and threatening to douse the galley too. OK, all ports shut. Thirty minutes later the wind was gone and it was getting hot below. Reopen hatches and ports.
We arrived Westbrook channel at 1702. In our slip at 1712. Power connected and AC on at 1717. Time for showers and relax before enjoying Paul's lasagna. The AC was working well and we were quite comfortable as we ate the delicious lasagna and salad. And to top it off, we has some of Nancy's pie and our own strawberries and blueberries plus whipped cream that made for a delicious dessert.
By now we could see it getting darker outside faster than sunset. Checking on deck, and later the weather radar, it certainly looked like the predicted severe weather was on its way. In the radar picture below, Javelin sits in a marina that is one the shore just about below the "E" in New Haven. We turned in expecting to have a glorious sound and light show with lots of wind. We were gipped! No thunder and lightning, no big winds, and just a little rain that was so short and so light half of us never heard it. But both north and south of us, it was a pretty big storm.
After a farewell breakfast of ham, egg and cheese McHank breakfast sandwiches, Steve drove Michael to new Haven to catch a train back to New York. He returned in time for us to cast off and head back into the cruise at 0930. (Here's a link to the McHank process and a picture of Hank Jonas who donated the device to Javelin.)
The promised northwest wind did arrive and it was delightful cooler and much less humid - actually a beautiful day to go sailing. We powered offshore past the western end of Long Sand Shoal, set sails at 1004 and headed for the eastern end of Long Island Sound. Long Island ends in two major "forks." The southern fork facing the Atlantic Ocean ends at Montauk Point. The northern fork forming Long Island Sound ends at Orient Point. Off Orient point there is Plum Island and the passage between the two is called Plum Gut, with a big black and white lighthouse marking the passage. That was our initial target.
Between the "forks" is Shelter Island with many bays, anchorages and harbors around its approximately 20 mile circumference. We cleared Plum Gut at 1149 and hardened up for Orient Harbor to circle Shelter Island in a counterclockwise direction. Passing Dering Harbor, and most of the way for that matter, this beautiful Sunday afternoon brought out every power boat that could be launched. They zipped and roared past us going in all directions. With the wind partly blocked by the island, we motor sailed with the main around to the south side of the island into Noyak Bay. Noyak Bay was our original destination in The Plan.
Steve's long time friend Jeff Kenner has a Tartan 37 in Sag Harbor and they were going to try to rendezvous with us. By cellphone they agreed on Noyak Bay and around 1400 we did indeed sail alongside Wind Dancer. Though Javelin is bigger and faster, the Tartan 37 with a big jib was surprisingly nimble in light are off the wind. We snapped pics from many angles against a cloud-perfect sky.
By then it was pushing 1500 and we had to decided if we would stay just where we were or choose another anchorage for the night. Noyak Bay is nice, but it is not sheltered from northwest winds. So we elected to complete the circumnavigation of Shelter Island and anchor in Orient Harbor.
It was a great sail, beating upwind. Even Rick, sun adverse as he is, took his turn at the helm and reveled in going to windward. We dropped sail at 1605 and powered into Orient Harbor. Anchor down at 1635. Log and web page work commenced. Dinner was prepped with boneless skinless chicken marinated in olive oil and spices waiting for a hot skillet, mixed veg ready to steam, and biscuits ready to pop in the oven.
But it was a perfect evening on deck and we enjoyed nibbles and gently solved the problems of the world as the sun slowly slid toward the horizon. Even an almost-full moon popped up dead astern to frame the picture. Two boats out for a casual evening sail completed the picture. It was 2000 when we eased the biscuits into the oven, lit the veggies to boil and Paul started searing the chicken.
Steve and Paul headed for their bunks, while Rick retreated to his cabin and played solitare until 11 in case there was a call from the Matilda set strike team back home in Mountain View.
Another beautiful morning. Sunny, cool and quiet in Orient Harbor. We got a "late" start, departing at 0906. The wind was light so we powered past Orient Harbor and Plum Gut lights. A zoom lens showed that Plum Gut light could use some pruning or mowing, and maybe, based on the deck chair arrangement, someone was squatting on the light!
Ever the optimist, Steve declared that were just enough wind to sail, so engine off and sails up at 1050. We were making about 4.3 knots with a little current going with us and generally on course westward heading for an anchorage near Branford.
About noon we had more wind and making 6 -7 knots, but the wind had gone west and the current turned against us. We were beating west and just clearing the Long Sand Shoal West buoy right in front of Westbrook. We tacked to starboard but the wind went light and the current strengthened, so we were almost going right back along the course we had just sailed. After having lunch, we tacked back to port and, with much frustration, at 1319 we were right back just a half mile farther west at Long Sand Shoal.
We furled the jib, pulled the traveler to weather and motor sailed west into the wind and current. At 1419 (by coincidence) well south of Falkner Island, we turned off the engine, rolled out the jib and had a delightful close hauled sail making 7.6 knots. (Boat speed and course were captured from hand-held cellphone GPS apps, not the ship's instruments.) It was such good sailing that Steve had us sail right on past Bradford Shoal, a short distance beyond our intended anchorage.
Once again navigating with a tablet, we worked our way around Bradford Shoal and into the open area protected by Clam, Sumac and Spectacle Islands to the southwest, and Foot Rocks and Green Island to the northeast. We anchored in 14 feet of water with a good mud bottom.
We wrapped up the day with nibbles in the cockpit, Michael's Texas Chili for dinner, and our famous Javelin Sundaes, crumbled Oreos with blueberries and whipped cream, for dessert.
A little rain fell overnight and the wind shifted north, as predicted. That left us one more perfect morning. Clear, pleasantly cool, but a little less wind than Steve would prefer. So we hauled anchor at 0722 and motored back to our home port of Westbrook.
After our arrival at 1005, we topped off the starboard fuel tank with 34.5 gallons of diesel, moved into our slip, hosed off the boat with fresh water and hauled our gear to the car.
Our last picture shows the various routes we took and the area we covered stretching from New Haven to Providence on the north shore, and out to Orient Point and Shelter Island to the south. It was one more great Javelin Cruise in the log book.