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2011 Field Report

As reported by Roger Karlbach and Ken Rossner

This year, the fleet divided into two groups.  The faster boats would cover more distance in a day, then wait for the slower boats to catch up.  Roger was with the faster group, and Ken with the slower.

Day 1 - Sat. 7/23

Ken:

Tively (McElwreaths), Pas de Deux (Solomons), and Sunrise (Rossners) arrived safely at Norwalk YC. Captains and crew of Tively and Sunrise are trying to recover from the heat by spending some time at the club house. Though not air conditioned there is a cooling breeze, and a shower was very welcome indeed. Sandy and Michael Solomon visited friends in the Norwalk area. The journey here was marked by no wind - therefore no sailing - and nasty black flies in abundance. We've had happier days on the water, but no one is griping. We are looking forward to resuming the cruise tomorrow when more wind is expected along with slightly cooler temperatures. See you all in Port Jefferson.

Roger:

At least three of our boats are already in Port Jeff - Blast (Odiernas with grandkids) and Northstar (Lages) are on moorings of the Seatauket YC where we will all be Sunday.

Defiance (Bennett Weber, Ian and I) is about two miles from that YC on anchor in "Conscience Bay", the bay extending west after entering the Harbor.

On Defiance, we adopted a different strategy for seeking heat relief on this windless fly-infested day: engine off and jump into the Sound. It cools, and while we were at it, we scrubbed as much as we could reach of the boat's bottom. We also tried sailing for less than an hour, but at 1 knot over the ground, we did not persist for long. Once anchored we dinked over to explore and learned that the beachy area that separates the Sound from the Bay (where I used to walk Jesse) is now roped off as a sanctuary for Plover, except for a path at Water's edge, so we walked around the point for another refreshing Sound swim. Fortunately those biting black flies sleep at night and it was calm, dry and warm.

Day 2 - July 24. - Port Jefferson

Roger:

We are here in force today - ten boats plus one.

Blast and Northstar, the two power boats in our fleet, were here on the yellow mooring balls of the Seatauket YC Saturday night. Interestingly, this club places its guest moorings nearest the dock -- it is their revenue source and their club house has no big dining facility.

Defiance motored the mile and a half from its anchorage after applying about one and a half coats of Cetol to its exterior teak. The three Norwalk boats motored over, as described in Ken Rossner's report, below. Kerry Ann (Schulmans), Grace (Lloyd and Tia), Sly Fox (Tim Moses), Pas de Deux (The Solomons) (fist time I realized we has both Moses and Solomons with us) and Acquarius (an Island Packet 35 sailed by Jan and Jo Ann Weise -- former, and possibly future, Harlemites). This brings us to ten.

The eleventh is Laughter with Barbara Frieden and her two sons aboard with Dave having to go back to work. Barbara grew up in Port Jeff and has family here; the boys are enrolled for two weeks in the local sailing school.

We invited Laughter to join the cruise for dinner but they had other plans. Grace dined aboard. The rest of us ended up in two restaurants: Costa de Espagna fed about 16 of us and the other 6 to 8 dined at Lotsa Pasta.

The night was dry, calm and cool enough that we used top sheets or quilts.

Ken:

Saturday, Dan & Mary Jane and Ken & Camille spent the evening lounging in wicker chairs at the Norwalk YC, chatting away and having a wonderful time. With the exception of Michael & Sandy, who spent the night in AC'ed luxury at the home of friends, we slept outside on our respective boats. The night mercifully cooled off, and I for one had a great sleep.

Sunday, we had a brief conference chat on channel 72. Tively would leave a little later in the day, while Pas de Deux and Sunrise departed for Port Jeff shortly after 8 AM.

While crossing the sound, Sunrise was happily overtaken by Grace, sailing from Noroton where Lloyd & Tia spent Saturday with friends, and acquired a handsome dinghy, which they are now proudly towing. The two boats pulled up quite closely midway to Port Jeff and we had an old time ship-to-ship conversation without the benefit of electronics. We took a photo which has been sent to the Club. It worked well, with us successfully sharing warnings about keeping an eye out for the Port Jeff ferry.

Monday promises much better wind from the west and cooler temperatures. The dream, of course, is a fast one-tack, no black fly, cruise to Branford for the slower boats and to Mattituck for the faster ones, with a swim in the pool at both destinations.

Day 3

Roger:

A cloudy day with a steady but light rain in mid to late afternoon but WIND!

The Rossners stuck with the original plan for the slower boat division and Sunrise crossed the Sound heading NE on a single starboard reach to Branford CT. The rest of us beat east to Mattinicock.

Defiance sailed off her Port Jeff mooring on a run out of PJ, with a motor assist in the channel when the ferry was entering and an accidental gybe would have been most untimely. Having run north out of the port, we expected a beamy reach once we turned easterly in the Sound. But no, the winds were from about 120 at about 10 to 15 knots. (We do not have a wind speed instrument aboard.) Our passage started at about 9 and motoring the last hour we were docked at 5:30. The Marina left it to our power boaters to serve as dock hands for the later arriving sail boaters.

Highlight of the evening was the communal barbecue at the grill amongst the picnic tables nested under some massive trees. Northstar brought a big bag of charcoal and ingredients for a samores desert. Kerry Ann made pina coladas. Everyone cooked their own meat with some sharing. Among the many other dishes shared by all were: pate, salami, peppers and sausages, dips, manchego y membrillo, spanakopita and a few more, plus lots of wine. We started at about 6:30 and the samores were cooked after dark. The fellowship was almost as warm as the fire. We lacked only the vegetable component of a balanced diet and it was definitely an "off diet" feast for all except those of us with iron clad will power.

The night was cool, dry and calm.

Day 4

Roger:

Most of us transited from Mattituck to Shelter Island today. Some decided to stay behind in Mattituck for another day. They, like Sunrise, which had gone to Branford, will be arriving here Wednesday.

The trip here, starting in the morning so as to get through Plum Gut before the tide turned adverse at about 1:30, was sadly without wind power, though tide power gave us an extra knot or more. The weather was nice until late afternoon and early evening, when we had a couple of downpours.

At Shelter Island, we are divided, with Blast, Pas de Deux, Defiance and Sly Fox in Coecles Harbor and Tively and Aquarius at the YC in Dering Harbor. The cost is about the same with Dering closer to town and at a very nice YC with launch service, while Coecles lacks these but has a quieter feel, a bike rental facility, gives rides to town and has a swimming pool. They are two miles apart as the crow flies, perhaps double that by road or 6-8 miles by boat, counter-clockwise around the northern part of the island.

Defiance was met by our wives, who drove up, and we are spending two nights ashore in the home of a friend of one of them, which has a swimming pool. Some of the Ceocles boats plan to spend their third night on this island at Dering. We found that the Ace Hardware store in town sells a lot of the little bits that sailors find they need.

Another Harlem cruising boat, Dave Volkman's "Electric Ladyland,"reports that they left as we did on Saturday, and will join our fleet toward the end of the cruise but is traveling farther than the rest of us. So far they have been in Milford at the YC, Mystic at the museum, Wickford RI, where our cruise put in last summer, and have plans to visit Newport, Martha's Vinyard, and possibly Provincetown, on the Cape, before heading west to connect with us for the last few days.

I got an email from PC Tom Lane, asking whether our itinerary included, Mystic, near his summer home on Masons Island. No, but Noank is right there and we would love to meet him. Unfortunately this will not happen, but for a good reason: Tom is also a PC (They call their Commodores "Masters") of The Corinthians, (a club without a clubhouse that organizes cruises, social events, races and educational events to which about ten Harlemites belong) and will be on "Rally Point" participating in the one week Corinthian cruise in the Martha's Vinyard area while we visit Noank.

Day 5

Roger:

This was a lay day here on Shelter Island, with no planned group activities; I believe every boat did as they pleased.

Sunrise was anchored behind the sea walls of Duck Island Roads in CT and got hit with a squall with very strong winds. By motoring to relieve pressure on the anchor, they weathered the storm. Another boat suffered probable damage to portable non-marine electronic devices which got wet in the rain the day before.

A short report today.

Day 6

Roger:

A few boats have headed for home as planned: Tively, Pas de Deux and Acquarius, soon to be replaced by Leeds The Way, Adagio and Frabjous. Electric Ladyland, after a night in Cuddyhunk, has reached Vinyard Haven on MV, and Sly Fox, which will rejoin us in Block Island is temporarily detached.

The rest of us have gathered at the Shelter Island YC in Dering Harbor. Sunrise came here from Duck Island Road, CT and the boats that were in Coecles Harbor made the much shorter passage here around the north end of this island.

Plans for a longer sail today, e.g., around the southern end, were scrapped due to light winds. The much shorter northern route filled a pleasant afternoon's slow sail for Defiance.

Grace and Sunrise dined in town; the rest of us at the Club which has an elegant dining service. Blast enjoyed the company of three of their grandkids for an earlier dinner time. Defiance, with our wives, treated the woman in whose house we stayed. Kerry Ann and North Star enjoyed each other's company after a day trip to the more bustling town of Greenport, by 1/4 mile ferry ride.

The weather was great again. We are blessed to be enjoying it in such a lovely spot.

Day 7

Roger:

Most of us left S.I. at about 8 am and experienced a hard shower in Essex after arrival. Northstar was hauled here briefly for a bit of mechanical work and is now OK. The boats are in slips in a marina that appears to be reached through a narrow passage, and set well back from the Connecticut River's western shore. Sunrise visited the riverside maritime museum and dined aboard. Blast, Kerry Ann and Northstar had dinner at the historic Griswold Inn.

A threatened heavy shower had caused the postponement of the planned pot luck dinner until tomorrow, when good weather is predicted to return.

Because (a) we had slept late ashore with our wives, (b) we needed to buy some diesel and (c) poor tide timing on my part, Defiance did not leave S.I. until after 11 and after favorable tide to Plum Gut, we were slammed by the ebbing tide the rest of the way -- across the Sound and up the River. We did see a number or participants in the Around Long Island Regatta. They overtook us at a distance and then beat west toward the finish near Seacliff YC.

With a moderate wind, we had to steer quite westerly, 300 magnetic, to lay red buoy 8, off the River's entrance. In the River we sailed up on almost a dead run until an approaching temporary cloud bank caused us to gain manoeuverability and speed by motoring the rest of the way to our mooring out in the River. It was a grey and drizzly day, but we had no heavy rain during the passage..

After dinner at the Essex YC, the complement of Defiance changed. Bennett had to get home and drove there in the car in which Ian, who had been with us until S.I., drove here. Ian brought his two children, Ashton, going into 8th grade and Lila, going into 6th. They will be here for two days until Bennett drives back and meets us in Noank.

Day 8

Roger:

It was a hot, dry, breezy, sunny, day -- followed by a cool, calm, dry night.

While the main fleet lay here in Fssex, we got word that the Commodore's boat, "Leeds the Way", and Vincent Pirone's "Adagio" had made it to Port Jeff on Friday, with a stop at Westbrook planned for today in anticipation of a rendezvous with the rest of us on Sunday in Noank.

On Defiant, I worked today at cross purposes with my wife Ilene: she is acting as a volunteer amateur consultant to help the Webers decide to buy a newer bigger boat while I had a date with compounding cleaner, polish and acetone, trying to make at least a part of Defiance sparkle as once she did. Ian and his kids went for a swim and took a nap.

The pool was a popular spot with others too and some books got read, a popular lay day activity. Sunrise, our most adventurous explorers, took a dinghy trip. Blast enjoyed the last day with their grandchildren and visits by car from those grandkid's parents, including Harlemites Steven and Susan -- it was the last day of summer camp.

The potluck dinner was another satisfying over-eaters fiesta: cold pizza with cream cheese, lox, onion, capers and parsley, a bean salad, a tomato salad, a hot rice and lentil dish, popcorn, a salad of chicken, avocado and red grape halves with a flavored mayonaisey dressing, deliciously spiced ribs and cold roast chicken. And the ice cream store was only a few blocks away.

Day 9

Roger:

A warm, dry, sunny day with light but sailable winds from the south characterized the first day of the second half of our cruise.

On Saturday, when Leeds The Way and Adagio crossed the Sound heading NE, they were pushed by the strongest winds any of us have experienced so far. Each captain used only one of their two sails. Leeds The Way is now here in the Noank Shipyard with us while Adagio is in nearby (by car) Stonington enjoying the land hospitality of a friend.

Most of us left Essex near 10 am and used the main only to stabilize the boat while motoring down the Connecticut River against the tide. Some of us got delayed for about 15 minutes by two Amtrak trains which caused a long closing of the railroad bridge. This was Blast's only day without guests -- they were joined by the Feniks at Noank. On Defiance, young Ashton was assigned to check off each buoy against the chart and he did a fine job. Other boats were concerned for our well being, not because of Ash's navigation, but when listening to VHF transmissions between TowUS and a different sailboat named Defiance.

Once we turned east at Red "8" marking the end of the shoaly waters off the mouth of the river, the genoa was deployed but we kept the engine running until we caught up with Sunrise, apparently sailing without engine at about four knots over the bottom (This speed gradually increased as the ebb tide got stronger). We turned off our noise maker and sailed the rest of the way to the entrance to Noank, albeit a tenth of a knot or two slower than Sunrise, which gradually pulled way ahead of us and thereby won the "race" (Well they have an auto pilot which can steer straighter than a thirteen year old but talented new helmsman; but no one wants to hear excuses, do they).

We were all docked or moored in Noank by about 1630. Ian and his two children left us, replaced by the returning Bennett. We had time to check in, shower, get ice, have a drink or whatever before the 6:30 dinner hour at Abbott's.

I had sailed past this place several times but never eaten there. To paraphrase what Gerbers used to say about their baby food: Lobsters are their business, their only business. What we had not anticipated was standing in line for half an hour in order to place your order, pay for it and get assigned your number, and then waiting a much shorter interval to pick up your tray. Fortunately, someone in our group had the foresight to lay claim to two adjacent picnic tables where we partook of our shellfish which everyone enjoyed.

A calm, cool and dry night topped of yet another lovely day.

Day 10

Roger:

Yet another day of great summer weather with sailable light wind. And though we were treated to an aerial fireworks display after dinner, the rain that such displays usually portend did not materialize -- the night was cool, calm and dry.

A memorable observation about our dinner at Abbott's which was the subject of yesterday's report and that I did not remember until too late for that report: at our two picnic tables were seated not just our Commodore, but three of our honored PCs: Ernie Odierna, Marty Fenik and Bruce Lages.

We left Noank at about 10 and faced adverse tidal current and hardly any wind for a slow slog though eastern Fishers Island Sound. A foggy haze obscured sightseeing, though visibility was good enough -- several miles. Once cleared through Watch Hill Passage at about the slack at high water, we found that the ocean winds, from the SW permitted us to use our sails to augment the motor. As the wind picked up we got a GPS reading that we would arrive safely before the 3 pm magic moment when the Harbormaster assigns vacant private moorings to mooringless transients. So we turned of the engine and still made it on time.

We wish to thank Leeds the Way for, well, leading the way for us. Defiance has no auto pilot and with no land in sight, Leeds The Way's transom was our beckoning landmark.

Feeling like dare devils, we sailed deeply into the Great Salt Pond. We discovered, however, when the time for sailing was finally at its end, that the engine switch key would not start the engine. Fortunately, Bennett knows the ways of car thieves and used a screwdriver to short across the correct two terminals at the solenoid of the starter motor, bypassing the defective switch to turn on the engine. And we have a date with a mechanic in the morning.

Many of us have taken slips and the rest are on moorings or anchor. We were rejoined by Sly Fox, bringing our complement back up to eight boats, but we received a report from Electric Ladyland that they have indeed reached Provincetown and are having such a good time that they will not be joining us during our return trip.

Many of us ate at The Oar, which overlooks the Boat Basin and the dinghy and launch docks -- literally the first place you see upon landing, a favorite of most of us. Others took a cab or hoofed it over to the town and had seafood at Finn's or at a sort of fine dining place: Eli's, which apparently has been here for several years but in a slightly off the main drag location; I had never heard of it. Between its good food and its no-reservations policy, long waits for a table cause them not to advertise.

Day 11

Roger:

The good weather continued. At night, a quilt was in order, in addition to the top sheet.

The men of Sly Fox enjoyed visits by their wives, via car and then ferry. The wives will go home and Sly Fox will continue east, to Cuddyhunk, tomorrow when we will turn toward home, reducing our group to seven boats.

Those aboard Blast obtained a local temporary license, went clamming and enjoyed the fruits of their labors with linguini for dinner aboard.

Other dine aboards were Sunrise (after biking and exploring by dink) and Defiance (after boat cleaning while waiting for the local mechanic, creating a temporary fix to the electrical problem, and then biking). The B.I. mechanic frustrated us by telling us that we should have the boat towed to Point Judith and buy and install a new engine; he was most uncooperative and the only advice he was willing to give to a cruising sailor was most impractical. So we have rigged a bypass of the starter switch which should hopefully last until City Island.

Others of us patronized The Oar, again.

Kerry Ann is planning to detour very slightly to Stonington tomorrow for a bit of work on a pump, before joining us for lobsters aboard at Fishers Island YC. We received a report that the Rogans and the Lassmans are driving up to Milford to join us for dinner Friday night.

Day 12

Roger:

Weather report: gloriously boringly similar, with another quiet quilt night after a few minutes of light rain after dinner.

Most of us left Block at about 8 am but Kerry Ann left two hours early to successfully get a sump pump fixed at Dodson's in Stonington, en route, and Blast was delayed by the unexpected non-departure of her neighbor, whose close proximity prevented the hoisting of Blast's dink until 10:30 -- not that such a delay is a problem for Blast with her speed.

Several of us, including Adagio and Leeds The Way took the longer route to our dock at the FIYC toward the western end of the north side of Fisher's Island -- through The Race and clockwise around the western end of the island. The rest of us took the shorter route: back through Watch Hill Passage and through Fishers Island Sound.

Defiance sailed from channel to the channel except for about two hours in Block Island Sound when the wind was too light, giving us only two knots, during which we motored. We were on a single tack until entering the wide mouth of the bay of the YC through which we made several tacks.  We all arrived in the 2 to 3 pm time frame and are tied to the sides of a single long dock.

Many of us had wine and cheese aboard North Star before walking to the Island's only grocery store, taking showers etc.

At four we assembled on the dock for a stroll to the Henry L. Ferguson Museum. Its Director, Pierce Rafferty.  By prearrangement, opened it out of hours for us. He is a historian who knows all there is to know about the history of the island, but, as he said, little about the history of anywhere else. He was our voluble docent and would gladly have stayed much longer than the agreed time.

The Island is part on New York State though it is much closer to CT than to NY. It went through various cycles of big old hotel tourism, sheep and cattle ranching, and service as a large military base before becoming an enclave of privacy for a rather small number of very wealthy old money people who are not very famous and want to avoid celebrity for themselves and tourism and development for their island.

Our dinner arrived at seven: a big white styrofoam box delivered to the club containing a bright red steaming hot soft shelled lobster for each of us. This was a BYO dinner: bring your own plate, utensils, paper towels, melted butter, lemon, side dish, beverage and a glass to drink it from.

After dinner, a few of us visited The Pequod, the island's only hotel (six rooms) with one of its few restaurants and bars -- a hangout for the young crowd.

Day 13

Roger:

Hard to believe that the weather is so good; except that for sailors, the wind from the south became so light that even with a favorable but waning tidal current we were going less than 3 knots SOG and elected to motor for the last 90 minutes. Our days passage was from about 9 to 3.

Several of our boats spotted sea turtles of various sizes. Others spotted a very large tree, mostly underwater, with some branches raised put of the water on which birds were perched; one would hate to run into that at night.

Here in Clinton, we are only five boats, with Kerry Ann having gone ahead to Milford tp obtain a lay day there tomorrow while we travel to join her. We are all tied up starboard side to the outside of the outmost dock.

Several of us ate lunch at the marina's restaurant, Aqua, went shopping by use of the marina's free van service and/or soaked in or lazed by the pool.

Dinner, our last pot luck, was in the marina's club room, with a weak air conditioner in which we set up their tables and chairs in a long row for the twelve of us. The room's ambiance was not that great but its privacy fostered our conviviality. Among the offerings were guacamole with tortilla chips, antipasti of cheeses, stuffed olives, salamis, bread sticks and marinated mushrooms, chicken with rice and olives, barbecued pulled brisket, soft hot flour tacos with all the fillings, tomato and onion salad and yellow beans with blue cheese, bacon and walnuts. And for desert, in honor of the Leeds' wedding anniversary -- candle lit cupcakes. No one went to bed hungry.

Day 14

Roger:

We received word that Adagio, who left us at Fishers Island yasterday, had made it all the way to Port Jeff by 6 pm. Vince recommended Pace Steakhouse there as "phenomenal" which we can check out on next year's cruise.

In the early dawn at Clinton, it was quite cold and I was considering a very fast sail with the possibility of the need to reef. But after breakfast and by our 9 am departure the air had warmed to pleasant summer ordinary and the wind was off our port quarter but light.

Our most determined sailors, Sunrise, sailed the whole way and hence got to Milford last. Leeds The Way had to set up for the cocktail party which they hosted on their boat and adjacent dock, so they started motoring earliest. Defiance motored for about 90 minutes in the middle of the passage and returned the genoa to action and shut down the engine at the first hint of a whitecap to experience the best sailing of the cruise, so far. Not exciting sailing, but four knots of boat speed.

With the arrival of the Rogans and the Lassmans we were 18 folks at the party, and among them, six of our past and present Commodores. We congratulated Elle, who reported that she had obtained permanent resident status and will be eligible to apply for US citizenship next summer.

Then we packed twelve of us (three boats elected to try to use up some of their perishable provisions by dining aboard) into the two available cars for a brief ride to the Chinese restaurant out on Route 1. They set up a round table for all twelve of us. After the return drive to the Marina we patronized its excellent multiflavored ice cream stand and experienced another cool, dry, calm night.

Day 15

Roger:

Most of us were awakened by raucous squawking of a caucus of geese swimming and squabbling behind our boats.

We set out at about 9:30 with high hopes for wind. But after a while, during which we achieved 5 knots through the water, the wind dwindled and finally died. Plus, the wind was from the mouth of Huntington Bay, lengthening the allotment of miles to be covered.

As boat speed gradually diminished, eventually to zero, sooner or later each boat switched to its engine. On Defiance this caused a delay when we discovered that the genoa furler line was tangled in its drum; Bennett went forward and de-tangled the line so we were able to furl the head sail.

Some of us were further delayed by an event called "Swim Across The Sound". As we neared an imaginary curving line between Port Jeff and Bridgeport, we noticed a lot of boats. From a distance they seemed engaged in fishing -- but some were sailboats with all sails furled, abnormal fishing platforms. Then police boats engaged us, blue lights flashing, and yelled that we could not cross the line because there were "swimmers in the water. Go south, around the end of the line." "What? You mean you've closed the whole Sound to east-west traffic?" I asked. "Yes; but what do you care, you are just our for a day sail," was the erroneous reply. So we motored about three miles south south east, back toward Port Jeff, before resuming our passage west.

As it turned out, this was not bad for us because when, under overcast skies, the wind came up at abut 2 pm, our more southerly position permitted us to beat toward the entrance to Huntington Bay on a single port tack.

The final three hours of the day's passage, including tacking south through Huntington Bay, reaching east through Northport Bay and ending at 5pm at red "8" at the mouth of Northport Harbor (where the Centerport YC is located) was the peak sailing experience of the entire cruise; a glorious exhilarating romp at boat speeds which averaged about 5.5 knots -- faster than our engine can take us -- the kind of experience that reminds us why we are sailors.

Almost all of us had dinner in the elegant dining room of the Centerport YC, our last communal activity before we head for home tomorrow. We were joined by a local friend of Bennett, Peter.

It was a cool, windy, rainy night.

Day 16

Roger:

Well, our near perfect 16 day weather record was too good to be true. It rained this morning, but a lot less than the weather gurus had predicted. With hard rain predicted all day at 60%, getting to 70% in the afternoon, Defiance dropped its bridle right after breakfast, thereby enduring about three hours of adverse tide. We motorsailed to the Greenwitch Islands and tacked back past Matinicock before the wind gave out while crossing Hempstead Bay so we motored straight toward home for a while until a bit of wind came up and we were able to sail without the engine for a while past Hart Island.

The meteorological forecast also had falsely included 10 to 15 knot winds. This plus the forecast rain had caused most boaters to make other plans. As a result we had no wake based waves to buck.

All got home safely as scheduled except Sunrise, who decided to extend their cruise by one more day.