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Cape May, NJ: First Overnight!

Great Kills, NY to Cape May, NJ //


We woke up the morning of Wednesday, November 7 eager to get going on our first overnight of this trip. When we say eager, it’s really a mixed bag of emotions, from feeling scared not knowing how we would handle looking after big tankers during the night, to being excited about being able to make some headway. We had a great weather window coming up with mostly clear skies forecasted for the next 24 hours and milder weather (in the lower 60s!). We left Great Kills around 10am and headed towards Sandy Hook Bay. As soon as we rounded the point we were able to set the sails up for a couple of hours. After that, the wind started to turn from the Southwest which created some choppy conditions, but not as bad as we’ve been experiencing. We sailed as close to the wind as possible until we had to turn on the engine with our course pretty much head onto the wind. We continued on through the evening, and realizing that with daylight savings sunsets were now closer to 4:50pm, we started prepping dinner early. It was the first time we’d be cooking a full meal while underway. We had decided to make turkey chili, something hearty to get us through the early morning. It was a great opportunity to test the gimbal stove which rocked away with the angle of the boat as it moved through the waves. It didn’t disappoint and neither did the chili.

We had also established 3-hour watch shifts starting at 6pm. Tom had a hard time sleeping with the engine running, and I had to wake him a couple times to confirm what looked like tugboats dragging barges nearby. By 3am we were rounding up Atlantic City and the winds became more favorable, so we got the sails back up. Atlantic City shined like we think Las Vegas would in the middle of the desert. Neither of us have been to either city, but you could see the LED graphics on the buildings in the horizon since sunset, and even all the way from near Cape May in the early morning!

By 9am we were coming up to Wildwood, NJ. We could see other sailboats we had passed while under sail closer to us now. We were amused by the fact we had passed them as we are usually the slowest of the bunch. It was comforting to know we had other sailboats sailing along on our passage. That reassured us of choosing a good weather window. We arrived to Cape May harbor exactly in exactly 24 hours, at 10am, and headed towards Utsch’s Marina to weather the next round of gale warnings and rainy weather.

The other sailboats that we had seen around during the passage ended up coming in to the same marina as well. We were able to meet some of them and exchange thoughts on the next weather window and passage south. We had been tiptoeing around the idea of breaking the next passage to Norfolk, VA by going into Ocean City, MD or Chincoteague, VA. But it seemed we only had two days between a gale hitting Cape May on Saturday and a weather system coming through the region on Tuesday. Over a late lunch at a seafood outpost nearby, we decided to go for the 30 hour sail to Norfolk, VA. Looking at the weather we would have had to sail during one of the coldest evening to date, mid to low 30’s. With the winds forecasted to be pretty dim we figured it could be a much more bearable passage.

Come Saturday, the rain ended up being much less than expected. We did have copious amounts of rain the night before. The winds, on the other hand were gusting pretty strongly throughout the day. On the 'boat projects' front, Tom had spent some time on Friday prepping the electrical work inside the boat to hook up an USB charge port on the cockpit. On our overnight sail, we found it pretty hard to read the chartplotter clearly from behind the wheel, so we figured we should keep Navionics app on our iPhones near the helm. Running the app does drain the battery the tablet pretty fast, hence the need for a charger nearby.

Tom braved the cold brisk winds outside for most of the day and took the time to finalize installing the charger. Ducked inside one of the lazarettes (a storage compartment below deck near the aft end of the vessel), he found that the wires that power the autopilot had been torn. Finally we knew why the autopilot hadn’t been working all along! And so, the simple installation of a USB charger turned into resoldering all the wiring on the 8-pin connector that controls the autopilot, checking the continuity of each single wire with an ohm meter, and reconnecting all the severed wires back together. Needless to say, come sunset, we cooked dinner and tucked into bed early. We rested happy knowing we wouldn’t need to be at the helm for 30 hours on our next overnight now that Robo-sailor (the name we’ve given to our autopilot) would be rejoining our crew to steer us through evening.

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