Sandy Hook Beach and Macy's Fireworks
Distance: 43 NM
It was a last minute decision to go to Sandy Hook beach and play in the sand and sun with the grand dudes. The other option high on the list was a day spent with neighbors as their guests at a beach club. We went with the boat option and found a spot where we could drop anchor and take the dinghy to the beach for Lily to play in the sand.
|Our new captain - Lily|
|Fast Dinghy Ride|
|Papa Clark and Lily on Sandy Hook beach|
|Chris (son), Heather (his wife), and|
Lily (our granddaughter).
Jack (grandson) and Evelyn stayed on the big boat.
|Lily loves to play in the sand.|
|Chris, Heather, Lily, and Jack|
on bow of Sunset Delight
After a fun time playing in the water followed by a nice dinner, the question came up could we do Macy's fireworks - we could see NYC as it was only 16 nm away. Clark's answer was a resounding "YES!" (he loves fireworks). Given that, we enjoyed a smooth crossing of Raritan Bay with the exception of a small encounter with a board and some debris. We anchored near New York City, off the Buttermilk channel, just south of the "Echo" security zone. This was far enough out to protect the grandkids' ears from the loud booms that tend to make them cry.
|Approaching a hazy New York City|
|Multiple helicopters arriving in preparation for fireworks|
|Statue of Liberty at Sunset - gorgeous!|
|Lily and Jack with NYC in the background|
Both the fireworks and the boat traffic with their associated wakes (except for law-enforcement boats) seemed subdued this year compared to our many trips in prior years. Clark likes to take pictures of the fireworks. Sometimes he gets a good picture - frequently, that is not the case.
|Macy's Fireworks over the East River|
|Weird camera effects on Fireworks picture|
|Finally a decent picture of the fireworks and the river!|
Lily managed to stay awake until the fireworks started. She must have been unimpressed, however, because no sooner did they start then she fell fast asleep in Heather's arms. Heather, Evelyn, and a sleeping Lily stayed below on the cockpit while Clark and Chris went up top to hear the synchronized music being played on AM radio 1010. After the show Chris came down and carried Lily, still dead to the world, to the guest stateroom and her makeshift bed.
At 10:15 Clark was still waiting for the "grand finale", but the rest of us finally convinced him that the Macy's display had truly finished about 10 pm. We pulled up anchor and slowly headed back towards New Jersey. Given our somewhat early departure time from NYC, it seemed we might arrive back home early, i.e. before 1:00 am, but as it turned out, our adventure was yet to begin.
As we headed back towards New Jersey, the Verrazano Narrows bridge lit up the river like day, but after passing under the bridge, it became eerily dark. The haze, no, more like pea soup fog, descended around us. It was black all around us except for the stars and aircraft in the sky and the green reflection of our own running light off the cloud bank. The cold air sent us scrambling for long sleeves and jackets.
The grandchildren were tucked into bed. Heather decided to stay in the guest stateroom with them to hear them if they woke. Evelyn, being exhausted from early-morning play with Lily, decided to lie down and rest. Chris and Clark were left manning the helm for the trip across Raritan Bay. They ran on an auto pilot track to the Sandy Hook channel with their eyes glued outside searching all around.
Hoffman and Swinburne Islands showed on the chart plotter and radar but were otherwise invisible at 1500' out. The plotted track would take us through Chapel Hill bell G"17", still invisible at 1000' out, so the track had to be altered to starboard to be sure it was well off the track. As they got closer, they could see the flashing green fog. At 450', they could finally see the marker abeam.
By now, we were idling at less than 1000 RPM, and the boats all around us were sounding fog signals, mostly off the port side. For safety, we also sounded ours, but it was so loud that it was in danger of waking our young and not-so-young sleeping passengers. Chris went below to see how everyone fared. Evelyn reported that that horn blasts had startled her several times. She had no idea we were dealing with dense fog and thought that there must be other reasons for the horn blasts. She had been trying to figure out what those reasons might be.
Happily, checking AIS, Clark found that the other boats around us had also slowed their speed. Sadly, our ETA was now predicted to be well after our anticipated 1:00 am. Passing by West Bank light and horn, 3 unlit nuns and a can had to be accounted for; Clark and Chris managed to find 2 of these closer aids. From here on, the visibility slowly improved allowing faster running speeds as the lights of NJ and Earle Pier slowly appeared. Checking AIS, about a mile out from Sandy Hook channel, we found ourselves on a collision course with an inbound freighter, White Hall. On a VHF call, we agreed we would slow to let him pass ahead.
Arriving at the Shrewsbury River channel entrance, an outbound boat appeared showing white and green lights thus making us the stand-on vessel. However, as the boat came closer, it became clear that 1) The red running light was extinguished and hiding the apparent head-on collision situation until the boat was very close. 2) A normal head-to-head meeting calls for a port-to-port pass, and this boat was cutting across our bow to starboard without any signals for another passing arrangement. 3) The boat was on the wrong, i.e. red, side of the channel squeezing between us and the nearby red marker. 4) The boat was traveling at a high rate of speed. 5) We needed to, and did, drop all speed and signaled a 5-blast danger salute on the horn. After which, the boat turned away after a delay that was too late to be effective for collision avoidance.
Following that incident, Clark attempted to call the boat on channel 13 and 16 to let them know their red running light was out. No name was visible, and they did not have an AIS transmitter operating, so hailing by name was not possible. No response was received on either channel when calling the vessel by location.
After this last adventure, we had the river to ourselves. It was at this time that Evelyn returned to the upper helm having missed the fog and the near-collision incidents. Although damp and chilly, the rest of the trip was uneventful. We finally arrived home some time after 2:00 am. It was well after 3:00 a.m. before all of us had climbed into our beds. Even so, we could expect the grandchildren to be up by 7:00!
(This story was written by Clark and posted to Facebook prior to Evelyn incorporating it into our travel blog.)