Cruise to OpSail – Summer of 2000


Bruce and Judy Chappell on Peapod and their friends Joe and Maria

Norm and Shelley Topf on Ahneya and his sister and brother-in-law, Barbara and Albert


Thursday – We arrived at the boat around 7:30 p.m. and started unloading the car and loading the boat.  It was hard to believe how much stuff that we had.  Between food and clothing, it took almost 2 hours to get it done.  I schlepped everything from the car to the boat, and Shelley took care of putting it away.  I also rowed the dinghy over and tied it to the stern of Ahneya.


Friday – The weather was wonderful, cool and dry and comfortable.  The only drawback was that there was virtually no wind.  We motored the 31 miles to Mount Sinai, just east of Port Jefferson, Long Island.  Bruce had arranged for a mooring for our boats, and we found it and tied up with no problem.  It was Shelley’s night to cook and we had  a shrimp appetizer and salmon on the grill, with cherry cheesecake for dessert! 


Saturday – Another great, but windless day.  We motored for 36 miles to Port Washington, Long Island, where we planned to stop and get fuel, ice and water and to pump out the holding tank.  I got fuel and ice and water, but the gas dock staff told us that the pump out was not available at low tide, which it was at that time.  They told me that there was a local pumpout boat available and the hailing channel; I couldn’t reach them, and the dock staff refused to help.  In addition, Bruce just wanted to take on water, and the dock staff was really snippy and did not allow him to use a hose that was available.


From Port Washington, we went another 6 miles to Little Neck Bay, which was the first place that I sailed my own boat (it was a Sunfish).  We had reserved two moorings here at Bayside Marina.  The bay is really shallow, with our depth finder frequently reading 3 or 4 feet (I know that the true depth is about 2 feet deeper).  The cable for Peapod’s centerboard broke and the board was in a down position.  Bruce rigged up some line that enabled them to keep the centerboard up.  Joe and Maria drove down and had dinner with us here.  Shelley made 2 pizzas for appetizers.  They took too long to cook in the oven, so we ended up cooking them on the barbecue.  We also had a delicious dinner, with grilled chicken and rice (Judy’s favorite thing!!)  Maria made her signature dish – rice pudding. 


Sunday – Maria dropped Joe off to make the trip on Peapod.  Joe brought us New York bialys – wonderful stuff!!  The weather was a little more humid, but still sunny; but again we couldn’t sail.  We motored under the Bronx Whitestone and Throggs Neck Bridges, past Laguardia Airport and Rikers Island, and then under the Hells Gate and Triborough Bridges.  We hit Hells Gate right at slack tide, and it was as calm as a backyard swimming pool.  We wondered what all of the commotion was about.  Down the East River we went, under the 59th Street Bridge and past Gracie Mansion (the mayor’s residence) and all of the famous New York City landmarks.  We saw the Chrysler and Empire State Buildings, as well as the United Nations.  We went past the South Street Seaport and Governor’s Island and out into Upper New York Bay.  And there, right in front of us was the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, as well as two aircraft carriers.  You can’t really believe how large those ships are until you see sailors standing on the deck.  A glance over our shoulder revealed the world famous New York City skyline.  It is still unbelievable to me that a kid from Brooklyn should return to the city on my own boat.  There were already some boats anchored waiting for Tuesday’s festivities, but not too many.  Peapod went over into Gravesend Bay looking for a good place for Tuesday, and Ahneya proceeded down past the Verezzano Bridge and to the western tip of Coney Island.  We continued until we were more than 3 miles offshore (as opposed to our initial plans which called for us to turn east about 1 ½ miles offshore) at which time we dumped our holding tank.  We then raised our sails and proceeded toward Sheepshead Bay in a straight line.  But lo and behold, we soon found ourselves in really shallow water about 2 miles off Coney Island.  We made our way to about ¼ mile off Coney Island, where the water was deeper, and sailed along parallel to the beach until we got to Sheepshead Bay.  When Peapod was still not in sight, we turned and sailed back to the world famous parachute jump, at which time Peapod arrived.  We dropped sails and motored into Sheepshead Bay, where we found the mooring that we were to share for the next two days.  The mooring belonged to the Sheepshead Bay Yacht Club.  Maria drove down and the 6 of us went to dinner together at Maria’s, a fancy Italian restaurant.  Although I had really wanted to go to Lundy’s, yacht club members said that it wasn’t so good anymore.  After dinner, we walked along Emmons Avenue, along the northern side of Sheepshead Bay.  And it was here that you could really feel the energy and vitality that people think of when they think of New York City.  There were tons of people out walking, with families and friends.  And probably more than half were speaking languages other than English.  John Rocker would not have been happy, but I was.  At this point, the trip had fulfilled my hopes, and I didn’t really care if we got to see the tall ships and fireworks.  Maria and Joe went home at about 10 PM after we watched some fireworks (set off on Breezy Point, Rockaway) from the Yacht Club docks.


Monday – we spent a lazy day moored in Sheepshead Bay.  The day was a little warmer and more humid then yesterday.  The fishing boats went in and out all day, but we really took it easy.  We took out our dinghy and motored to the end of the Bay and also outside in the channel, where a fishing boat kicked up a wake that looked like a tidal wave to us.  We checked out a large boat that had been used for going offshore and gambling, but which apparently has been shut down by the government.  We met Barbara and Albert at the Yacht Club at 5 PM.  It started to drizzle just as we were walking to dinner, and the heavens opened up while we were eating.  Shelley decided to show off her skills and tried to shut the window where we were getting wet.  Using her typical strong arm methods resulted in bending one of the supports, but we carefully hid it from the restaurant owners.  The place specialized in middle eastern seafood and Albert took care of the ordering for most of us in Turkish.  It was really good.  By the time we finished dinner, the rain ended, allowing for another walk along Emmons Ave.  Shelley made mock Black Forest Cake in honor of Barbara and Albert’s 20th anniversary.  They slept over on Ahneya.


Tuesday – Well this was the big day.  We planned to get up at 5 AM, but most of us were awake before then.  Ahneya left the mooring at 5:45 AM with Shelley, Norm, Barbara and Albert.  Our first stop was to get fresh water.  As we were leaving, we could tell that there was a problem with Peapod.  One of lines that was holding up the centerboard had come loose and had wrapped around the prop.  After much muttering (and stronger language) Bruce apparently put the motor in reverse, allowing the line to come free.  Peapod motored to the dock picked up fresh water and Joe and Maria, and off we went.

(with a few more bialys courtesy of Joe and Maria).  At about 8 a.m. both boats were motoring across lower New York Bay, from east to west.  Peapod was slightly further west than Ahneya. All of a sudden a Coast Guard ship came near Ahneya and told us that we couldn’t cross the bay; the area was closed.  After some discussion, we convinced the Coast Guard that we should be allowed to join our friends, especially since there was nothing going on at the time and no Op Sail craft were in the neighborhood.  We proceeded past an armada of US, Japanese and Canadian naval vessels along with the QE2, to about ¾ mile south of the Statue of Liberty, where we anchored.  Peapod and Ahneya were about 100 yards apart.  Although the area was crowded, there was plenty of space for more boats.  I think people were frightened off by the predictions of huge crowds and 70,000 recreational boats.  We were probably about 1 mile from the route of the tall ships, and 1 ½ miles from the JFK, where President Clinton reviewed the parade.  The parade of ships was absolutely spectacular.  In addition, the Air Force did periodic fly overs, including the stealth bomber, which looked like a huge manta ray in the sky – it was very scary looking.  Getting up before 5 AM took its toll, as heads were nodding even during the parade of the tall ships.  When the parade ended, at about 1:15 Bruce and Judy left to take Joe and Maria back to Sheepshead Bay, and Ahneya went looking for a more protected place to anchor for the fireworks and the evening.  We found a super place, between the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, only 100 yards from the Statue.  We were in only 7 feet of water and were effectively protected on 3 sides, since New Jersey was only ¾ mile to the west, and we thought it would be a reasonably calm place to spend the night.  Meanwhile, Bruce and Judy were making their way back to us.  Unfortunately, they encountered a foul current and could only make 3 knots.  By the time they got near Liberty Island, the Coast Guard wouldn’t let them go from the south side of the statue to the north, so they had to anchor in deeper and less protected waters.  The nightime fireworks did not work out really well for us.  We had read about 5 sites for the fireworks, and one of the sites was right in front of us.  We were so excited, but our site only had fireworks during the last 6 minutes.  The other 4 sites had fireworks for about 35 minutes.  Although we could see the whole show at the Battery, we were disappointed.  Being somewhat further south, Bruce and Judy watched the show at Bay Ridge Brooklyn, just north of the Verezzano Bridge.  They had an awesome view of the spectacular display.


Wednesday – We had our first anchoring night and a successful one it was.  When we got up at 8 AM, Lady Liberty was still there…still about 100 yards away.  We weighed anchor at about 9 AM and sailed across Upper New York Bay to the Battery.  When we got to the beginning of the East River, we again furled our sails and started motoring up the river.  We passed many of the tall ships, anchored at the South Street Seaport and other marinas along the river.  We were looking for a place to drop off Barbara and Albert, since they wanted to stay in Manhattan and do a show and dinner in honor of their anniversary.  We finally came to the 23 Street marina.  We pulled alongside, but it was pretty rough there.  Shelley got ashore with the lines, but it was really bouncy, and she had trouble making us secure.  We rubbed against the tires that had been installed on the dock as bumpers, leaving black smudges on Ahneya.  We also took out a small piece of fiberglass from her stern.  But we did drop off Barbara and Albert, and off we went again, up the river.  We were in flood tide (roughly 2 hours prior to slack tide at Hell Gate), and we went flying up the river, hitting 11.2 knots over the bottom.  On the way, we passed 5 small navy craft (maybe PT boats) heading in the other direction.  When we got to the top of the East River, we found out where Hell Gate got its name.  There were good sized waves and whirlpools that pushed us from side to side; staying toward the middle gave us room to maneuver.  This went on for about ¼ mile or so.  Following the transit of Hell Gate, we were passed by the Mystic Whaler, heading east up Long Island Sound.  After we got into the Sound, we hoisted our sails and motor sailed to Brewers Capri Marina in Port Washington.  The staff there was much more helpful this time, and we found our slips and headed for the pool.  The water was delightful and Judy, Bruce and Shelley shared a Pina Colada  while cooling off in the water!!   Norm, hwoever, got trapped by a lonesome guy who needed a friendly person with whom to talk.  Shelley and Bruce walked to town to pick up some needed supplies (cherries, NY rye bread, some fruit, etc.) while Judy made dinner and Norm still was stuck talking to this lonely guy.  We all enjoyed hot showers without having to worry about using too much water!!  The marina there had huge yachts, many in the range of 80-120 feet.  Each one was grander than the other.  One even had its name in lights on the outside of the hull – Life’s Finest. 


Judy made some delicious chili for dinner, again with her favorite side dish – rice!!  We discovered Italian Table Cheese – it was really good.  (We already bought some for home!!)  Once more we couldn’t get pumped out because of low tide.  Norm’s cousins, Bob and Bobbi Straus stopped by for 45 minutes to say hello.


Thursday – we motored to Port Jefferson, Bruce anchored Peapod and we rafted Ahneya up with them.  It was really rocky whenever the ferries (to Bridgeport) went in and out, which started at 6 AM and ended at 10:30 PM.  We dinghied to town and had to pay $5 to leave our dinghy at the dinghy dock.  The first store we saw was a bakery and we really went to town in there!!  We got some wonderful sundried tomato bread, a few desserts and a chocolate chip cookie to share right then and there!!  The town was okay, a little touristy like Mystic, but much quieter.  Got back and had a nice linguini and white clam sauce dinner on Peapod, enjoying our purchases from the bakery.  A rocky night, with the ferry wake and the pounding of a lobster buoy.


Friday – We decided to spend another day in Port Jefferson.  We moved to a quiet bay near the mouth on Port Jefferson Harbor, on the western side. .Bruce fixed the problem with his centerboard by using a wire hanger to pull the cable out of the tube.  It was quite inspiring, considering he was using snorkle and mask without any air tanks.  We helped him because we had a wire hanger!!  Shelley brought it to him by rowing over in the dink – felt like Girl Scout camp again!  Bruce’s heroics did not go unnoticed as another boat requested his assistance on their diesel engine!!  Lots of moorings, good holding, and probably 15-20 boats anchored.  We found a place about 8 feet deep.   Peapod was close by in about 20 feet of water.  Bruce, Judy and Shelley went back to town via dinghy, and I just hung out on Ahneya.  Shelley found a “sailor collar” for Rags and Judy found the necklace that she had been looking for – so a good time was had by all!  (and we managed to stay out of the bakery, although we did find ourselves having a drink and buffalo wings….)  We dinghied over to Peapod for a fabulous salmon dinner (and rice!!).  When we dinghied back to Ahneya, it was dark and very blowy.  We put the dinghy motor back on board after a quick discussion.  It turned out to be a good thing, because the wind was blowing at 15-20 overnight and the next morning.  Again, the anchor held, but we were up very early.


Saturday – We had a nice sail back (under genoa only).  When we left, it was really blowing and we were doing a constant 6-7 knots.  As we got closer to Westbrook, the wind was sporadic and we varied between 2 and 7 knots.  At the Clinton breakwater, we gave up sailing and decided to motor in.  At that point, with less than 3 miles to go, we had trouble getting the motor started.  It didn’t start with battery 2, didn’t start with battery 1, and started only grudgingly with both batteries.  Time to get new batteries.  It took less time to unload the boat than to load, but when you add in clean up time, things tended to balance out.  We had pizza together and left the marina at about 7 PM.