Dick and Gayl's Cruising Adventures

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Tuesday, May 31, 2005  Cape May to Atlantic City,
45 miles
This was our first full day of ocean cruising, a day I had been dreading since we first made our plans to do the Loop, and it became clear that there was no way to avoid going outside intracoastal waters.
It couldn't have been calmer.  The day was sunny, the winds light, temperatures were in the pleasant 70s, and if the water was any smoother, I could have leaned over the side to see my reflection well enough to apply make-up (which, of course, I haven't really bothered to do since we started living aboard, if you don't count Chapstick).
It was so clear that we could see Atlantic City from 20 miles away.  As we got close, the many gilded minarets of Aladdin's Casino sparkled in the sun, and we had to look twice and check our charts to figure out if the lighthouse among the casinos was a fantasy prop or the real thing.

Absecon Lighthouse in Atlantic City

The lighthouse is the real thing.  It was first lit in 1857, in hopes that it could prevent the wrecks that had earned Absecon Beach the nickname "graveyard beach."  Alas, in the ten years following its lighting, at least 64 ocean-going vessels wrecked off the shores of Absecon Beach.
At 270 feet, this is the tallest lighthouse in New Jersey, and the third tallest in the country.  It still has its original 12,000 pound lens, made in Paris, that magnifies the light so it is visible for 19.5 miles. The lighthouse cost $52,000 to build, and was recently renovated for $3.5 million dollars.  People without a fear of heights or constrained spaces can climb the 228-step spiral staircase inside the tower, which has a uniform ten foot internal diameter.
We bypassed the opportunity to pay $180 to dock at Trump's Marina, and anchored for free in a quiet pond across the channel from Atlantic City. There we could watch the terns and gulls fishing for dinner, and see egrets wading in the marshes along the shore.  We watched a vermillion sunset, then enjoyed the lights of the casinos as darkness fell.

Red sky at morning , sailors take warning

Wednesday, June 1, 2005
Atlantic City to Metedeconk River
67.5 grueling miles
We got up before 5 am, and were on our way at 5:30 for two reasons.  First, Dick couldn't sleep well, because he was worried if we left too late we would be trapped in the anchorage by the falling tide (high tide was at 4:30 am, and when we came in yesterday afternoon at near high tide, we needed every inch to get in the narrow and shallow entrance to the pond).   Second, we figured that if we got another day like yesterday, we would just do two days' travel in one, and get all our ocean travel behind us.
Within a couple hours it became clear that this was not going to be a day like yesterday, and we needed a safe inlet short of our original destination (Manesquan).  The waves were brutal, the patchy fog wasn't burning off, the overcast skies seemed threatening, and it was cold.

The inlet to Barnegut Bay was less than an hour away when we decided we had to get in. Our charts and cruising guides warned of its treacherous waters when the wind is from the east and the tide going out.  One Guide even cited deaths in the channel, and advice from the Coast Guard to wear a life vest if waves are visible there.  Since the wind was from the east, and the tide going out at the time, Dick called both the Coast Guard and Tow Boat US for local knowledge and assurance that it was safe to enter the channel.  Both said it was not a problem today.
So we ventured in, and experienced the biggest pounders we have had so far, but they didn't threaten to put us into rocks or trough us against the bottom.  They just tossed a bunch of stuff around.  Nothing broke -- I just had to pick up all the other stuff that flew off the bathroom counter and across the bedroom floor, replace chairs that slid across the salon, and rearrange cupboard contents that had settled in shipping.
If we had any illusions that the inland route was going to be easier than the ocean one, we were promptly disabused of that notion, as we experienced water depths that gave our keel just inches clearance.  We felt our way slowly through many sections of the channel.
We decided to anchor again, just about 8 miles short of Manesquan, which is Mile Zero of the New Jersey ICW, and the spot where there is no choice but to go out into the ocean for 25 miles to get north.
It was a relief to find 8 feet of sheltered water where we could safely drop anchor.  Was it a good omen that just after we anchored we heard loons calling for the first time this trip?  We have seen them often, but they have been silent until now.
When Loopers on Pilgrim, who had left the anchorage behind us this morning and also cut in at Barnegut Bay Inlet, called to see where we were, we told them about our great find, and they joined us in this anchorage.  Shortly after that, we heard from the men of Apolonia, and they pulled in a couple hours later. 
We all got together for Happy Hour on Pilgrim, and shared our tales of woe.  We agreed we would all try again tomorrow to get to New York, because if it doesn't work then, the weather Saturday will surely keep us from moving.
Some facts about New Jersey, the "Garden State":
The state bird is the American goldfinch.
The state flower is the violet.
The state motto is "Liberty and prosperity."  We know that many residents take this mottto seriously, because only extremely prosperous people can afford the waterfront mega-mansions we see lining the shore around here.
The state insect is the honey bee .
New Jersey tried to have a state song, "I'm From New Jersey."  Both legislative houses passed it in 1972, but the Governor, who presumably had some musical taste, never signed it into law.  The lyrics are awful.  Here's a sample:  "I know a state that's a perfect playland with white sandy beaches by the sea,/ With fun-filled mountains, lakes and parks, and folks with hospitality. . . "