14 October 2021: A Familiar Place In The Dark


14 October 2021

Departure point

Pequennock Yacht Club, CT, USA

arrival point

Port Washington, NY, USA

distance (NM)

51 NM

Cumulative Mileage (NM)

107 NM

Crew on Board


Skipper, first mate, chef, entertainment and more; I guess that is solo sailing for you!


Brings food, does not get seasick, loves being at the helm and trimming sails, excellent dance moves, great conversation and company.  Is there a better crew member out there? 



12 knots just forward of the beam. 


Nothing to cause a bother!


The kind of fall day you wait for, crisp but sunny and warm at the same time!


Dry, thank goodness!


Our main goal of the day was to get to Port Washington, NY – our staging point for transiting the East River of New York City – and to do so before dark.   A favourite stop of mine that I got to explore back in 2018 on my way through (photo above from that time spent in Port Washington) and the same place we staged our transit from back then as well.   Familiar was nice at this point in learning to sail my own boat. 

On the last visit, the town was surrounded by orange fall leaves and it was the first time we got to launch our dinghy and explore a town.   I knew the mooring field with free moorings for two nights and remembered how beautiful the town looked from the water.  It was convenient back then as it had laundromat and food and supplies all very close to the town dock.  However, this time would be different. 

We would be arriving ideally before sundown and would not be launching the dinghy.   Immediately the next day we would be leaving based on the tides to have an easy transit of the East River.   I had done this once before and vividly remember the planning of the tides at Hell Gate and was trying to recreate it for another successful transit.   I was glad to have the help of my sailing coach, Jamie, in choosing the right tide.  I wanted to transit at slack tide at Hell Gate but on the slack tide that was followed by a tide that would push me in the direction I wanted to go and not opposing me.   I likely would have just chosen the easy daylight slack tide without his guidance.   And I nearly had to do it without his guidance, as we were texting about tides I got a cryptic message that said, “cannot talk active shooter”.   

He was in Maryland for the Annapolis Boatshow and I imagined the worst.   But I refused to text and clarify as every movie I had ever seen with a public shooter had someone who received a text message notification that gave away their hiding spot at exactly the wrong time.  But, in true Jamie fashion, he made sure his family was safe and hunkered down and when he decided the danger had passed and had regained enough mental functioning again he messaged to help me finish choosing the tides.   Could I have a better, more caring sailing coach.  I do not think so. 

So decision made, we would be leaving Port Washington in the dark, wee hours of the morning.   So our stay there was to be less than 12 hours.  

It was a perfect day of sailing: 12 knots of wind on the beam getting SV Tala moving at 7 knots!   I did not care much for sail trimming or boat speed on my last boat as long as we were generally moving at a reasonable pace.  I think that was because I could default to John to do it.   However, now I was finding it very satisfactory.   Though I could not really take credit for doing the trimming at this moment it was all Carolyn.  She was great with the sails and getting the most out of the boat and the old owner, Mike, was messaging and keeping up with the trip.  I learned this wind we were getting was Tala’s ideal wind!    But it was nice to see that I was more interested this in this aspect of sailing than I thought I would be.   Until now, I was sailing to have the lifestyle of liveaboard cruiser and not for the pure enjoyment of sailing.  But these bloody Ericson boats move well and comfortably!

The wind occasionally slowed and we motorsailed a bit, but hardly at all!   And I would have been happy to wait it out if we were not 

pushing arrival at dark.  This day of almost all sailing made me extra happy because sailing is so much better for my budget after spending my life savings on the boat itself!  And better for the environment.

We had sun and blue sky the entire day, so we were motivated to both be outside in the cockpit: listening to music, trimming the sails and learning my boat.   With Carolyn there I decided to work out the furler issue and seeing it up close in action could clearly tell that the drum was filling up too full with line as it was unfurled and once full then began wrapping around the outside.  

We tried unfurling with a very tight furling line, which helped, but did not solve the problem.   There were noticeably less wraps on the outside of the drum.   So I took a few wraps off to see if that helped – and it appeared to improve the situation when we went to re-furl the headsail.   However, with a few practices it appeared you had to unfurl it keeping the furling line very tight and re-furl it with a loose jib or you would run out of line.   I think we had found the perfect equilibrium of how much line exactly to have on the drum – I was satisfied for now but made a mental note for the future to review the angles of the guide pulley for the furling line in case that would help.

Carolyn made lunch, one of her infamous salads that I drool just thinking about!   She brought everything pre-cut and ready to put together.  That meant minimal dishes and maximum enjoyment of the day.  

As a cruiser, I often put the boat on autopilot and go.  But Carolyn really enjoyed actively steering, so she did a lot more steering than I did.   She probably got sick of me saying, “you can just hit ‘Auto’ you know”.   

The treat of the day was those first glimpses of the far-off New York City skyline on the horizon and we made sure to play Taylor Swifts ‘Welcome to New York’ song and danced in the cockpit.    Arriving to Port Washington was my first new state on my own sailboat and I was glad to have a friend to celebrate with!   And that city skyline was just a reminder of the bucketlist day ahead of us the next morning. 

In the end, we did achieve our goal of arriving in Port Washington, but not before dark.   I was grateful to have Carolyn on board with a spotlight watching for fish pots and also that I had been to this place once before and knew what to expect.    When we got to the mooring field, Carolyn took the helm and did a great job with speed and aim – directed mostly by my spotlight and a little bit of chat back and forth – as I grabbed our mooring and secured it on the bow.  First try in the pitch dark!  What a team!

The plans for the morning was to be at Hell Gate – still 13.5 nautical miles away – by no later than 7:49am the next morning.   So off to bed for an early rise! 

“Friendship multiplies the good of life and divides the evil.”

 – Baltasar Gracian

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