Yesterday we left Port Jefferson, New York and headed for New London, Connecticut, about 56 NM away. The wind was variable, from 7 knots to 12 knots, and gusting to 20 knots. After sailing for awhile, we decided to motor sail. We had left a bit later than we had planned and thunderstorms were forecast for late in the day. With the added speed from the engine, to offset when the wind speed dropped below 7 knots, we made good time, averaging about 7.7 knots of speed. The sun was shining, but the wind was cold. The passing was rather uneventful - my first rope burn ever when letting out the mainsheet, a broken reading light when Jay tried to open the back to put in batteries and a broken handheld GPS when Jay dropped it in the cockpit being the only casualties. The real excitement began when we less than a nautical mile from the lighthouse marking the entrance to New London Harbour. It was about 6pm and the sky had gone from partly cloudy to completely grey. Dark clouds were approaching from the south on our stern. The waves were not high, but had been tossing us around a bit for the better part of the crossing, making it tough to stay on course, so someone had to be on the wheel constantly.
We had been watching the sky darken to the south and had been hoping we could outrun the approaching bad weather. The wind dropped off completely to 3 knots and we furled in the sails, running under power alone. We revved up the engine and made a last ditch effort at out running the weather, an effort we knew was destined to failure. Within minutes, visibility dropped to less than a half a mile. The skies opened and torrential rain and hail started. Lightening flashed in the distance. Out of the fog in front of us emerged a ferry. We were not in its path, but the lack of visibility made the decision for us. The radar was so full of interference from the rain we could not rely on our ability to read it and although the chartplotter is a good one, neither of us fully trust it the way we did our now useless handheld GPS as the charts render differently on the display. We were not going to try entering an unfamiliar harbour under those conditions.
We turned the boat, heading for open water, hoping the storm would be short lived. But between us and open water on all sides were several rocks, so Jay stayed above on the wheel while I ducked in top the companionway. Not that it mattered. We were both soaked. We had only pulled on jackets, not full foul weather gear, and the dodger and bimini affording minimal protection from the driving rain. So, I huddled in the companionway, hoping that the lightening would not get too close. About ten minutes later, the skies lightened and the weather passed on. The rain stopped and visibility improved dramatically. We quickly headed for port.
On the way in we passed a boat setting up a race course and several sailboats getting ready for what was obviously a club race. I admired their commitment. Looking at the sky it seemed we might be in for another thunderstorm before the evening was over. As we entered port we headed for the Waterfront Park, right downtown, which was advertised in both cruising guides as having town moorings and amenities. When we picked up a mooring it was covered in barnacles and we could not raise anyone on VHF or by calling the phone number printed in the book. We decided to move to a nearby marina to get fuel and water and maybe take a mooring there. However, they too were not answering a hail on the VHF or the phone. In the meantime, the race has begun, so we figured maybe they were all out racing. The skies opened again for another quick rain shower. We took a mooring and made a quick dinner on the BBQ, figuring if we were on someone's mooring we would just move and that maybe once the race was over we could reach someone on the VHF or phone. We had looked carefully at the areas marked as anchorages on the chart, but they were all filled tightly with mooring balls.
Just as we finished eating, the race was ending and the boats were coming back in and another thunderstorm hit. A launch gathered racers from the moored boats and everyone scrambled for shore and shelter. We still could not reach anyone at the marina. The fuel dock was closed up tight. However, we had become quite aware of the pitching and rolling the boat was doing. The mooring field was more exposed to the elements than we liked. It was dark and none of the other boats looked like cruisers or seemed to have any people aboard as they bucked like wild horses on their mooring balls. I don't mind a little rocking to sleep, but the mooring ball was intermittently tapping the side of the boat. The wind and the current were working against each other and we were not swinging as we should on the ball.
Jay suggested we move back to the town moorings where it would be more sheltered. So at 10pm, we slipped off the mooring ball and motored the 1/2 mile or so back into the centre of town. Despite the railway track, the mooring field was calm, better sheltered from the wind, and empty. We picked up a mooring ball and fell into bed.
This morning we expected someone to come by and collect the posted $35 mooring fee, but no one did. Nor were the bathrooms ever opened. Obviously, we are out of season for the town's Waterfront Park. But there is a dinghy dock and so we went into town for lunch and a few errands. The forecast was for 20-25 knot gusting to 30 today in the Sound, so we decided to stay in New London. We had lunch on a lovely outdoor patio, but the wind required us to hold down our glasses, napkins and food! Unfortunately, the laundromat was too far away to walk, so I guess laundry will wait until tomorrow in Newport. But we did explore the downtown. And get a few errands accomplished. New London is very much a working town, well known for its submarine building industry. Several ferries leave from here to Block Island and Fishers Island.
To time the current around Fishers Island we need to leave late morning for the 48 nautical mile trip to Newport, Rhode Island, so we will get fuel and water tomorrow on our way out of New London. We will go north of Fishers Island, so we will not be going through The Race; however, currents are still a factor.