At the scheduled rendezvous time, Tony showed up in his boat. I sat in my cockpit, expecting a sail boat to appear at the Coney Island anchorage, but low and behold, a twin hulled powerboat showed up, and Captain Tony was at the helm. Who is Tony? There are so many great characters who I meet along the way, you're forgiven for not following this sailing soap opera's list of top celebrities! Tony helped out with Commanders Weather forecasts, and also sent through weather updates and eddy coordinates (remember him? I do.) so I could actually make landfall, instead of spending my time as flotsam in the Atlantic, when all I really wanted was a bagel with cream cheese in New York. So for the first time I met my weather saviour, and he'd now just offered to dedicate a day to following me into Manhattan to photograph my approach. As you can imagine, photos of yourself sailing when you're singlehanded are most always impossible, normally achievable only by sitting in the cockpit and pointing the camera at yourself, which always makes me feel like Narcissus re-incarnated. As we motored along, I did 3.8kts, which is 'August the mighty Yanmars' current top speed (I think there must be something wrong...), and poor Tony in M/V 'Sea Lion' idled their twin 140hp engines and snapped a lovely set of photos, which I am incredibly thankful for:
Of course the highlight was anchoring outside of Liberty Island, which I thought would be impossible, but the reality is, you can get really close, and if you don't mind the swell, drop the anchor and get the best view in town. As my plan was to go up to the 79th St Boat Basin, we didn't stay too long, as it's first come first served, and I really wanted a mooring for the night. I jokingly mentioned that Tony could more easily just tow me to Manhattan, to which he showed a funny grin and setup a tow rope. Constellation then proceeded to be hauled up the Hudson River at 8kts, the wind vane bracket disappearing under water, and Constellation creating a surfable wake.
At the Boat Basin, I was entitled to a mooring as far away from dinghy dock as possible... As I heaved my rowing oars back to land, a(nother) Canadian boat took pity on my back, and towed me in with an outboard. In a single day, both Constellation and Bob the Leaky Duck had tows! On land I managed to get myself so lost in the subway system, I nearly ended up back in Coney Island. My brother gave up on me, as I kept buying packets of gum for quarters, so I could try and call him. As my luck continued, I met an aspiring actress who loaned me her phone, and I eventually found my brother, who came all the way back to pick up his silly sibling who couldn't navigate the subway (no GPS signal so far underground, and the stars are blocked out... That's my excuse anyway.)
On Saturday friends came down to see the mighty Constellation, whom I brought into the marina for show-and-tell. Friends from Australia were in town, my uncle & cousin and my 'mates in the states' all came down to visit, which was most exciting; such social excitement after the great voyage!
Captain Tony wrote all my tides down for the next days voyage, and I set off with a ripping Hudson for Hell Gate. I met Phil again who had also sailed up from Atlantic Highlands, and we departed together. I was terribly lazy and just decided to follow him until we got into Long Island Sound; what a mistake. By the time I'd reached the Brooklyn Bridge, what can only be called a squall of gigantic proportions arose. I was so lazy, I hadn't even bothered to look at a chart, as Phil disappeared in a dense fog, and I couldn't figure out what was up, down, left or right. Eventually after numerous trips into the cabin, awash with rain after each trip dumped the water caught in my wet weather gear, I pinpointed where I was, as our speed mysteriously increased. By the time we'd reached mid-Hell Gate, Constellation and I topped out at 9.4kts over the ground, skidding from port to starboard in the currents, the tiller going back and forth to keep us going in roughly a straight line. A super yacht approached from the stern, doing the same 'dance of Hell Gate', overtook and honked in mutual appreciation for the British ensign (which she was also flying). (At least I think it was a honk of appreciation... It could have meant 'get the heck out of my way!')
By Long Island sound, a breeze showed signs of intensifying, and I launched the genoa. Ten minutes later a squall blew through, took the wind with it, and I motored along, in search for Tony, who had again offered to come out and meet me. We eventually crossed paths, and hooked up the tow rope again, it being 4pm with still another 12nm in front of us. Back under the power of tow, we powered through the fog, and arrived at Stamford Harbour, conducting a creepy fog-bound entrance, for which I was glad to be with someone who knew the area. I couldn't see a thing, but Tony motored on, and eventually I was tied up at the Brewers yard - A very special thanks to Janie for providing a slip for two nights.
I spent two nights in Stamford with Tony and his lovely wife Eva, who showed such generosity, I'm still literally stunned when I think back to how wonderfully they helped me out. Provided with a comfy bed, delicious food, new clothes, provisions, parts and funds to keep me going, I'm humbled and indebted: Thank you so much Captain Tony and Captain Eva for your kindness.
As I left Stamford, I motored towards Port Jefferson, anchoring in the harbour for the night, refusing to pay $40 for a mooring. I was far away from town, but there was no way I could justify wasting so much money for a 'permanent anchor'. It's quite amazing how much 'transients' pay in America for overnight stays - I still don't quite understand the economics of it when compared to Europe... I only paid that kind of money once, and that was in Dover, England, for a berth no less! The next day, I decided to cross the Sound for Duck Island, and motored across on a windless day. By the time I'd reached the middle, 'August the mighty Yanmar' blew a great plume of white smoke, coughed, spluttered and died. He was not to come back to life, and I proceeded under sail, incredibly annoyed to be stuck in another motorless situation. I dove overboard to check for rope stuck in the prop, yet there was nothing but a bit of plastic and a bunch of red jellyfish.
Proceeding under sail, the God's shone down on us, and the winds increased. I had no idea what I was going to do should it die altogether... Sailing into Duck Island Harbour at night under sail, we managed to find other boats at anchor, and promptly dropped the hook. Excited by the thrill of sailing around without an engine in unknown parts of the world, I slept and waited until 12pm the following day for the winds to pick up. The sails up, anchor hauled in, we proceeded under sail for Greenport. Reaching 'Plum Gut' at a favourable tide, fighting for three hours against a SSW wind to get through. Eventually it was deemed impossible, and so the long route was taken around Plum Island, skirting the edges and risking passage through shallow waters to make up for lost time. Tacking back towards Greenport, a line squall showed it's nasty head, and I refused to reduce sail in defiance. I wanted as much speed as possible to make up for this ridiculously annoying and lengthening passage. It wasn't long before the rail was touching the water, and a gust almost knocked us over before I managed to release the mainsheet. As I made a tack, the boat seemed to de-power, as the sun drenched and tired genoa tore in three places. Slapping like crazy, caught on the port spreader, I had to knife the sail down and pack the remains into the forward hatch. Launching the #2 genoa, we got back under way, and slowly tacked all the way up to the Greenport breakwater. It was midnight, and we set course to sail right into the marina, sans everything (including an understandable chart of the tiny entrance). By great luck, a friend called, and shortly showed up with a powerboat, quite simply out of nowhere, hunting around for the Ghost ship Constellation, who had by now a fused bow light, and only the stern lamp still functioning. With all cabin lights on, I hoped we'd avoid collision and be found, which we were, and kindly towed to safety.
I haven't really explained what I'm doing in these parts, but the fight for Greenport was made because I have a slip here for summer. I'll be hanging about trying hard to figure out what's next: Do I go back to the Caribbean for Panama? Or do I go through with the crazy plan to tow Constellation to San Francisco? Time will tell!
For now, I'm enjoying great company, and am ever thankful for making the right decision to come north. America has been fantastic to me, with so much generosity and interest in my trip, I can barely walk up the pontoon without someone wanting to talk to me, offering help, or offering to make me dinner.