Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Sleeping in a washing machine

On Tuesday this week, we left Clayton and decided to head to Cape Vincent NY. There was a squall watch in effect for that evening and so we thought we would move on as we were fairly exposed on the municipal pier in Clayton. Cape Vincent is about 13NM from Clayton and a ferry from Wolfe Island runs seasonally to this small village. There was about 15-20 knots of wind right on our nose the whole way so we motored.

The waterfront in Cape Vincent is protected by a 1300' breakwater and as we passed behind the breakwater the wind eased to less than 10 knots and the water was calm. What a picturesque site greeted us. Several homes with docks lined the waterfront. One small power boat was on a mooring ball within the breakwater and several other boats were tied up to either the public village pier or the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) pier.

It was mid afternoon so we thought we would refill our diesel. Although several of the cruising guides indicate there is diesel available at Anchor Marine, when we pulled up and docked at the fuel dock, the office was closed and locked and no one was anywhere about. Deciding to find a spot for the night and see what we could learn about available diesel, we shoved off again. Our choices were to anchor inside the breakwater, which was listed as a fair weather anchorage, the town dock or DEC pier, both of which offer free dockage.

With the forecast thunderstorm and squall watch, we immediately dismissed the anchorage. The space available between two power boats already on the town dock seemed too short for My Obsession and there were no facilities. The guidebooks had mentioned the DEC pier location had bathroom facilities during the hours of 8am and 4pm and a small Aquarium to visit. Two sailboats were tied to the more protected east side of the DEC dock already and a third was on the west side. We watched as this sailboat was warped around so it was bow out and then we called over to see if there was room in front of them. There was. Unfortunately there was another private dock to our starboard which stuck out far enough that coming about and docking starboard side in was not really possible for our boat. The small sailboat in front of us had barely cleared the dock when it warped around. So, we docked bow in. This turned out to be a bad decision.

We chatted briefly with the couples from the other sailboats who seemed to all be from Collins Bay. Then we went ashore and explored Cape Vincent. Although smaller than Clayton it offers groceries, a Laundromat, gas station, a few small shops and restaurants. We also explored the small aquarium located in the basement of the DEC building located immediately in front of the DEC pier. The building is a imposing five story stone building which was originally built as a mill.

It was hot and sticky and after supper we sat in the cockpit reading. Around 7 it began to rain and there was a thunderstorm which cooled the air. Then the wind picked up and shifted so it was coming in between the end of the breakwater and land. Small waves picked up and began hitting us on our rear starboard quarter. The boat started pitching and bouncing. The wind increased to about 20-25 knots sustained and it was pressing My Obsession hard against the dock.

As darkness set in, the motion of the boat only worsened. Luckily neither Jay not I are prone to seasickness. It was, however, hard to move around down below the boat was bouncing so much. I have never been in the boat when it was hobby horsing and rolling and pitching so badly and tied to a dock. And it kept up all night. It was like trying to sleep in a washing machine.

The two sailboats on the west side were also bouncing as the waves would hit the shore and rebound, but they were not moving as much as we were. Unfortunately for the couple in the sailboat tied up in front of us, they were bouncing even more than us. Their boat was shorter and lighter and was pitching worse than a bucking bronco. I felt very bad for them as I knew it had to be even more uncomfortable for them than it was for us.

We had all 5 fenders out and extra lines so My Obsession fared fine. Better than us in fact. We slept fitfully. As we sleep with our heads on the port side, the noise of the lines creaking reverberated loudly in our ears. We were out on deck with flashlights three times during the night to reposition fenders and check lines. We did get a few hours sleep, but not many. To make matters worse, the DEC building imposing by day, looked ominous at night with red lights glowing from the windows. Logic tells me that the red lights were likely from exit signs in this public building, but in the night with the wind howling, the wind turbine shrieking, the lines creaking and the boat rigging moaning, my imagination was conjuring something decidedly more evil.

At 7am when I woke up I looked out to see the couple in the boat in front of us shoving off. We exchanged a few words and it was clear they had spent a horrid night aboard. They moved over to the town pier which was better protected. I noted that they just fit into the open spot between the two power boats. I felt better knowing we couldn't have fit there even if we had wanted to. 

Although the wind had eased, and so had the motion of the boat, Cape Vincent had lost its charm. It was time to move on. I was ready for a quiet anchorage and a good nap. 

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