22 October 2021: The Open Atlantic
22 October 2021
Atlantic Highlands, NJ, USA
Manasquan Inlet, NJ, USA
Cumulative Mileage (NM)
Crew on Board
Skipper, first mate, chef, entertainment and more; I guess that is solo sailing for you!
Chesapeake sailing instructor from Maryland who was ready to try her hand at some open Atlantic Ocean miles.
GENERAL WEATHER OBSERVATIONS
Westerly at 14 knots; a dream forecast for heading south down the New Jersey coast!
Not a cloud in sight!
Sunny and beautiful! Nice to not have to factor in the cold for this part of the journey.
Dry, thank goodness!
You can really build things up in your head as you sit and anticipate your next passage. This was no exception. My visions compounded by the stormy weather encountered on the last time and to say I was nervous was an understatement.
The New Jersey coast is known for only having a few entrances along the roughly 105 nautical miles that it stretches (an overnight sail, so you can not just skip New Jersey if you are not willing to sail it overnight) and that all of those entrances can get pretty dicey in bad weather given they are fully exposed to the vast North Atlantic Ocean.
To say I was ecstatic when friends of friends had a crew connection for me was an understatement. Karen, who had three important qualities I was looking for:
- Experience – sailing experience in the Chesapeake Bay and just wanting more open ocean experience. I did not want someone totally green because I was still learning myself.
- Flexibility – a flexible schedule as I had to leave when the weather allowed and could not wait for someone nor depart before the weather was right.
- Nearby – the ability to get a ride to New Jersey and either stay with me until we arrived in Maryland or get picked up at whatever port was convenient nearby by the time that she needed to be home.
Given a weather window was approaching soon, winds from the west (so no crazy fetch and waves coming across the Atlantic and bashing up against the shoreline) and so Karen caught a ride from her partner the night before departure. We got on really well and she definitely knew a lot about sailing but was also eager to learn. She arrived very late as she had worked that day and they had vehicle troubles on the way up, so we had a quick dinner and went straight to bed (not before Karen snapped this photo of me, looking very happy and at home in SV Tala; really radiating how I was feeling even though it was still early days learning how to solo sail).
The next morning we put the dinghy on the davits, talked about the plan, had breakfast and made coffee for the ‘road’ and pulled the anchor as a team. The sun was shining and a light breeze from the west, as forecast, was blowing. And we were off!
The quick motor around Sandy Hook to the Atlantic was easy and as soon as we were out the mainsail was raised, followed shortly by pulling out the jib once we were back on course. The waves were small and beautiful rolling waves, the wind perfect. The boat was moving along, I was happy. But Karen was seasick only ten miles or so into the open Atlantic. Not just woozy, but flat out incapacitated.
After spewing up her breakfast over the side and trying a few tricks to get it under control, she was – to say in an understated way – ready to get off the boat.
But as I mentioned before, New Jersey is notorious for not having many choices when it comes to
places to pull in. So I was consulting the map and making a new plan on the fly by reviewing unfamiliar entrances nearby to see what might be a viable option. As we were near the coast, I was consulting with my sailing coach and with his encouragement that seasickness can be very serious – I chose the nearest option: Manasquan Inlet. Only ten miles away and with one marina that seemed to be viable, I rang ahead and they had one slip left I could take. Given we had great weather, the entrance was no challenge at all and the most challenging thing was working around a seasick crew member to run lines and to dock. And before I was even fully tied off, Karen had thrown herself off the boat and onto the dock. And a while later, once secured (a dock tied to piling with large tidal range takes me a long time to suitably tie a boat up as I much prefer anchorages over docks so I do not get much practice), I found Karen lying on the floor of the bait shop at the docks just trying to get her land legs back.
But the bait shop was closing and she was not so keen to step on the boat again, so I grabbed our things and headed to a nearby restaurant for her to try and recover. She called her parents to come and pick her up and by the time we had eaten something they had arrived from Philadelphia. We grabbed her belongings off the boat and my newest crew member was gone, leaving me on my own for the rest of the coast. However, she had paid for the marina which was very kind of her, as it certainly was not in my budget and was not in the original plan. So I made a plan for the next day and went to sleep with the plan to depart at daybreak and go as many miles as I could while this good weather window lasted.
The experience had definitely left me weary about inviting unknown crew on to the boat. However, there was an upside. The best part about this failed crew experience was that I had someone with me for the nerves of facing the open Atlantic as captain of my own boat for the first time, but now that I had seen how a good forecast can make all the difference I was ready to tackle it all on my own for the rest of the New Jersey coastline.
“Show me someone who has done something worthwhile, and I’ll show you someone who has overcome adversity.”
– Lou Holtz