America – and the Norwegian National Day
North from USVI (American Virgin Islands) we were again alone. We are always sailing on our own, but this time we knew that we wouldn’t meet ”old” sailor friends again. Every boat we knew from before were planning to sail via Bahamas and/or Azores toward Europe – or via the Panama Canal...
The sailing toward ”America” startet in calm weather. We knew that the last part of the leg could be windy. As we came closer to the US east coast – and closer to Cape May in New Jersey – the low pressure systems that usually popped out from the mainland did not pop out for some time. At times there was almost no wind at all. And we did not catch any fish during the sailing from USVI either.
The fog was thick as mud as we approached Cape May. Luckily there was almost no wind when we without seeing anything navigated via radar, AIS and GPS over the shallow water toward the breakwaters. If the wind had been strong from the east – something that often happens on this time of the year – we most probably would not have dared to arrive in America in Cape May. Shallow water, short steep seas and onshore wind are not very tempting…
Lovely 29°C in the ocean near St. John (USVI) turned within 5-6 days to colder 18°C. If we thgought 18°C was cold water, only a few more days passed before we measured 13°C. After sailing in tropical water for long time we were used to the lovely warm ocean! For the rest of the voyage toward Norway we assumed that 13°C had to called “warm” water…
We did not see the red bell buoy just outside the breakwaters before it was well on starboard, even though we had heard the bells for some time. We had seen “something” on the radar screen, so we assumed that “something” was the red buoy we expected to find. Still a visual identification feels much better. Also through the 1000 meter long narrow inlet between the breakwaters the radar was of good use. Even when we dropped the anchor outside what we assumed was the Coast Guard Base, we had to rely on the radar. We couldn’t see a thing. When the fog a few hours later became less dense, we could confirm that we were anchored where we thought we were anchored…
With the anchor well down in the mud, we called Customs to tell about our arrival. “Welcome” was the message we got from Customs. They wanted to meet us in town to hand over a Cruising Permit, so that we could arrive in any US port without any paper work. With a Cruising Permit all we had to do when we arrived in a port was to call Customs to let them know where we were. This is of course the way it should be when a foreign yacht arrives in a port within the same country, some would say. But from our travels in different waters we know that it is not always that easy.
We took the dinghy in to Corinthian Yacht Club, where Eivind’s relative Doris (86), her friend Joan (89) and Fred (Doris’ son) arrived by car as we stepped ashore. Doris is Eivind’s father’s cousin. Eivind had never before met ”cousin” Doris, only heard of her since he was a little boy.
When we underway toward Caribbean decided to sail the ”northern” route toward Norway, Doris – she had followed our journey via internet and email – immediately invited us to Cape May. When we met at the Corintian Yacht Club quay, it felt like we were old friends!
Fantastic days in Cape May
Cape May is one of USA’s early holiday destinations at the coast. Cape May is also Doris’ childhood’s place of vacation. Even today the holiday tourists is what keeps the city alive. Cape May has about 4000 citizens, but during summertime the number is 50000!
Our ”guides” showed us what was worth seeing nears Cape May. At the beach where Delaware River meets the Atlantic Ocean we dug for Cape May Diamonds. We found a nice collection. On it’s way toward the ocean the Delaware River has polished rocks of quartz into small oval ”diamonds”. Cape May Diamonds can be cut and polished like real diamonds and are about as beautiful - but are less expensive. Cape May is also known for the fantastic seafood – which we had to explore together with our relatives.
The large amount of Victorian style houses have put Cape May on the map. After a big fire in 1878 the little city was rebuilt in the then modern style. Today Cape May is a historical landmark and the buildings are listed.
Also Eirik and Marius enjoyed our American relatives. During a short visit to the hotel where Doris, Joan and Fred stayed, we suddenly found Fred (60), Eirik and Marius jumping on the beds!
The days in Cape May passed too quickly – and we felt empty when we waved ”See you” to Doris, Joan and Fred when they got in the car and drove toward Medford, also in New Jersey.
The Big Apple
One night’s sail took us from Cape May to Sandy Hook just south of the entrance to New York. After a couple of days anchored near Atlantic Highlands to prepare for the stretch toward New York, we went for it. First over the bay The Narrows and then under Verrazano Narrows Bridge, the bridge between New Jersey and Brooklyn. Then north through Upper Bay and past Liberty Island with Statue of Liberty, before we with Manhattan on starboard sailed further up Hudson River to 79th Street Boat Basin.
On our way up Hudson River we couldn’t avoid thinking of the terror attack 11th September 2001. New buildings were under construction and 9/11 Memorial was open to the public. Before we tied up at 79th Street Boat Basin, we also thought of the plane that landed on the river in 2009. Everybody on board survived thanks to the combination of the skilled Captain and quick response from all boats on the river.
17th May in New York
Every year the Norwegian Church Abroad in New York gather Norwegians to celebrate the Norwegian National Day. 17th of May 2012 was the first time the Norwegian Church Abroad was allowed to block 52nd Street between 1st and 2nd Avenue on Lower East Manhattan for the celebration. No one were untouched when we sang «Ja vi elsker», the Norwegian national anthem, at the end of the ceremony – lots of people had to attend from the hall and from the street outside because the church was full. After the children’s games, and sausages, ice cream and Solo (a typical Norwegian soft drink) outside the church, Birkenes Hornmusikk (brassband) led the parade around the block. A few locals probably wondered what the “demonstration” was about. The owner of the bar next door had been through the Norwegian National Day celebration before. From the door of his establissment he shouted “We have Norwegian Beer”!!
Visitors in NY
On a long sailing voyage you meet many crewmembers and yachts. Sometimes the meetings are short, sometimes you meet the same people again and again. At Galapagos in 2007 we met the American yacht Bahati and her crew. Since we met Bahati and crew many times – in the Pacific Ocean, New Zealand, Australia and in Thailand.
In New York Bahati’s captain Nat arrived by car just as the Norwegian National anthem was sung outside the Norwegian Seamen’s Church. As he walked closer to find us among about 1000 touched Norwegians he could feel that “something” was in the air. Nat is normally living in South Freeport, Maine, where Bahati also arrived in 2011 after her looong voyage. Ofcourse we planned to visit Bahati and crew when we came further north…
Our experience is that when we compare to Norwegian prices, everything seems to be cheap abroad. Along the east coast of the USA this was no longer the case. The cheapest marina berth in New York (which was in 79th Street Boat Basin) was 700 NOK (=120US$) for Empire. The other marina alternatives was much more expensive.
It was not only in New York that prices were high. At Atlantic Highlands south of NY they charged 50 US$ for the use of a mooring bouy for one night. (there was about 100 mooring bouys and three were in use) and the doubble if you wanted to tie up to the pier. Luckily we could anchor for free 50 meters further away from the dock...
It was not that expencive everywhere. In Newport (Rhode Island) after anchoring for free, we were welcomed to the dinghy dock with shower, toilet, places to sit and wifi – all free of charge.
Fog, fog and fog
The days in New York passed quickly. Caught in the “time trap” (because of the planned return to Norway in 2012) we had to sail on.
New York is a fantastic city to visit. It was interesting to see how well the big city was functioning for kids as well as for adults (for us as tourists, at least). We spent the days visiting different museums and parks. The only thing that was not fulfilled, was the 1. Mate’s wish to go shopping...
The first attempt to leave the city ended before passing Brooklyn Bridge. Through the fog we couldn’t even see the underside of the bridge when we were under it. The next day’s attempt to depart New York was more successful. North along East River we again passed Brooklyn Bridge, before other famous bridges followed, in addition to Pier 21, the FN building and Hell’s Gate – to mention some. In the northern end East River meets the southern end of Long Island Sound, which we continued north before anchoring near one of New York’s famous Yacht Clubs – in Oyster Bay, Long Island.
After anchoring one night in Port Jefferson, also Long Island, we planned to sail through the night directly to Newport. Just as the sun set and we were about to cross The Race, the strong tidal current in/out of Long Island Sound, the fog thickened around us. With several speed ferries around us and many fishing boats on changing courses near by we found it better to anchor for tha night in West Harbour on Fisher Island. After resting through the night, we sailed on the next following morning.
The last leg toward Newport, Rhode Island started in some fog. Luckily the fog disappeared through the day which gave us a beautiful arrival in the famous town, base for many of the America’s Cup races.
From Newport (RI) we headed toward Pocasset Harbor just south of Cape Cod Canal. When we the next morning sailed into Cape Cod Bay from the northern end of the canal, the fog was again thick as mud. It was also next to no wind. Again we had to trust the engine, the radar and the AIS.
We were looking forward to arrive in Maine – and South Freeport, or “SoFreeMe” as the locals say it. As we approached Nat and the dog Avery popped out of the fog and a rubber dinghy, to guide us the last stretch to Harraseeket River.
Already the morning after the arrival in Harraseeket Riverer Empire was hoisted on the hard- And the crew packed their sacks to live on land! Betsy and Nat wanted us to live in their house while we were in South Freeport. Between boatwork, mostly done by the Captain, the crew looked around in the neighbourhood. We were also invited to Yarmouth Island where Betsy and Nat have a summer house. Most of the houses on the island was more than 100 years old and were beautifully situated in old unthouched forrest. There was also time for a bath (in the ocean). We could as well get used to the cold water temperature now than later!
"Everybody" in SoFreeMe knew that the Norwegian yacht on the hard on Strout’s Point Wharf belonged to some strange Norwegians that had been about 7 years underway on a looong adventure, and that with two small children on the last half of the trip. During the time on the hard Empire was painted with new anti fouling and a new rubber seal was mounted on the S-drive – in addition to other necessary maintenance. After the intermediate schroud broke underway across the Atlantic Ocean toward Caribbean – and since Selden Mast advised that 30000 nautical miles was the recommended interval to replace the standing rigging – and since we had two small children on board – we decided also to replace all standing rigging while in South Freeport.
When Empire was hoisted back in the Harraseeket River, she looked almost like new. Heidi was mostly occupied with entertaining two young sailors on land. Eivind was almost without feelings in his arms after the polishing work.
We had three weeks living on land at Betsy’s and Nat’s place, so far Eirik’s and Marius’ longest stay on shore and in a house! For the Captain the working day was so much easier, when he did not have keep the boat liveable through the maintenance process. The young part of the crew adjusted to land life quickly – and they were very happy with their neighbours, two girls 3 and 6 years old.
Our often visiting friend Bjørnar signed on board again for a visit also in Maine. He arrived just in time to help Eivind replace the standing rigging. In addition Bjørnar explored South Freeport from the bicycle. After three nice weeks together with good friends and ”a bit” of boatwork, it was again time to hoist the sails.
Bjørnar was joining us for three weeks. He had a return ticket to Norway from Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada. If we made it shorter or longer than to the biggest city in Nova Scotia with Bjørnar on board, it would be easy for him to make his way to Halifax in time for his flight.
When we tied off the lines in South Freeport, we aimed only a short sail north east the coast of Maine. Nathaniel’s parents – Nathaniel sailed with Empire from New Zealand to Fiji and Vanuatu in 2008 – were living at their summer residence in Linekin Bay and had invited us to visit. Again we had great days with new lovely friends – before we hoisted the anchor and course was set eastward across Bay of Fundy – toward Nova Scotia and Canada.