New York City to Norwalk, CT
As we suspected all along when we planned this trip, we were not able to keep to our original itinerary. The plan was to stay in New York City until Friday, and then to head to Norwalk, CT. However, the weather forecast in NY and in CT for Friday was bad. So, we moved our itinerary up a day, and headed to Norwalk on Thursday instead. We will make up the day by staying two days in Mystic. So, trading one NYC day for a day in Mystic. Actually, I think that’s a good tradeoff, as even in 2 days we had our fill of the city.
I’m finding the marinas to be pretty flexible with cancellations and moving days around. Hopefully that will remain the case because as long as we are a day ahead of schedule, we’ll have to shift things around in several places.
This morning, Ann and Elana walked back to the vegan restaurant By Chloe and picked up “pancakes” and other breakfast “food”, and as soon as they returned to the boat around 8:45, I had everything ready, and we headed out for a 43 nautical mile boat ride to Norwalk. The Hudson was pretty rough, and in fact that was the roughest water we’ve encountered so far on this trip. We took it at around 10 knots so that Ann and Elana could eat in peace. Benny was still asleep.
As we circled Manhattan, heading South on the Hudson, I took in the views of Manhattan one more time. The East River is extremely heavily trafficked with commercial vessels and ships, and I had to stay really focused, but I managed to snap a few photos.
Once we got past Hell Gate (much ado about nothing), we headed into Long Island Sound. The water could not have been more calm. Not even one foot waves. We are getting spoiled. In the Sound, we saw the deepest water we’ve seen on the trip so far.
Had one hiccup leaving the Sound. My multi-function display plotter on the boat did not have chart details coming into the channel. So, I had no indication of depth or channel markers. I had two choices – just follow the channel markers and trust them, and use my waypoints to make sure I’m on course, or pull out my charting app on my iPhone and navigate using that. I ended up doing both – using my iPhone but following the waypoints on the charts and the channel markers. I will have to do the same when we leave tomorrow. Probably stressed me out more than it needed to, but I’m kind of a high strung person, and better safe than sorry in boating.
About 75 minutes after entering Long Island Sound, we arrived at Norwalk Cove Marina where we tied up stern-in to a really nice slip.
We are docked next to a gorgeous 80 foot yacht (named Dot Calm) with two tenders, including an open bow speedboat (Dot Net), with two 350HP outboards, that most people would probably be thrilled to have as their primary boat. I vowed not to have boat envy, as I just bought my dream boat, and no 80 foot yacht is going to change that. Amazing that no matter what you do, there is always one bigger.
After I checked in at the office, I had a nice chat with Grandpa Steve, my student Nick’s grandfather who is the marina manager. Of course he spoke very highly of his over-achieving grandson!
Once we settled in, and I plugged into shore power and took care of all the details associated with docking in a new slip (fastening and securing all the lines, lining up the fenders, shutting down the generator and the instruments, washing the boat, etc), we took our dingy out for a nice cruise around Norwalk Cove. We cruised around the marina admiring the boats, and then headed out into the open water on plane. The dingy does a good 25 knots at 3/4 throttle, and that’s as far as I felt like pushing it even though the water was completely flat. We crossed under a closed drawbridge which started opening, just as we were going under it, and scared the bejeebers out of me. Then we passed through an old spinning railroad bridge, and finally through a deep water marshy area where we saw a dozen or so swans. Gorgeous animals. Unfortunately, I did not bring my iPhone with me because I was worried about getting it wet, so we don’t have any pictures of that.
I let Benny drive the dingy, and we took it out into the Sound and drove around the Southern/Eastern shore where saw a really nice beach. Finally, we came back and put the dingy away. The process of stowing the dingy in the chocks, flushing its engine, securing everything, tying the paddle board to it, and washing everything took me over forty minutes. There’s always so much to do. We need to pump out again in the morning, but we’re good on fuel and water for our trip to Mystic tomorrow, and there seems to be a pretty wide weather window. I’d like to get out on the paddle boards once we get there tomorrow. Haven’t used them yet on this trip.
Shortly after we were done with the dingy, a strong storm came in. We enjoyed watching it from the comfort of our boat, secure in the slip and glad that we timed our travel well, but also aware that one day we may end up in something like that on the open water. Amazing how all of a sudden the waves whipped up, and it was awe inspiring to watch the fury with which water in the marina came to life.
Once the storm passed, we took an Uber to South Norwalk where every other establishment on Main Street looked like a nice restaurant. We settled for a Pho/Ramen place that accommodated all of our eating habits. I’ve never had Pho before, and probably won’t rush back to have it again, but it was okay.
We then settled in for the night. Ann reading, me working on my laptop, and Elana and Benny playing video games on their phones. Our plan is to watch a movie over Netflix using the high speed marina WiFi. Tomorrow, we head to Mystic, and we’ll time our departure based on the forecasts here and over there. Hopefully we can keep our great weather streak with no waves alive for at least another day.
Norwalk to Mystic
It rained all night in Norwalk, and when we got up, it was still raining hard. However, the weather forecast showed that the rain would let up some time around noon, and although thunderstorms were coming, they would not arrive until around 5:00 pm in Norwalk. The forecast for Mystic, our destination, was better, and although there were thunderstorms in the morning, the afternoon looked clear, with thunderstorms coming again in the evening. All of this to say that we had a window leaving Norwalk at mid day and getting to Mystic around 4:30.
We desperately needed to pump out our waste tanks, so as soon as there was a break in the rain, we headed over to the fuel dock and pumped out. Elana has become very handy on the boat, and she handled the bow line and helped me with the dreaded pump-out routine.
Of course, as we pulled out of the marina it began to rain again, so I drove the boat from the inside helm – first time ever. As soon as I tried to chart our course, I discovered that I still had no chart data in my MFD, and I had to use my iPhone app and the in water navigation aids to make our way through a somewhat tricky channel to get back to Long Island Sound. Visibility was low, it was raining, and my equipment was not ideal. I was pretty stressed out for about the first 20 minutes. Then we found open water, and I got the hang of using the app instead of the chart. The rest of the way was simple, but we encountered our first day with some waves. I’d say average waves were about three feet, and we were bouncing around. Still, the boat handled it great, and we were able to do about 21 knots without any discomfort. It was 66 degrees out and raining on and off, so none of us were up top where we normally like to ride, and we stayed inside the whole way. The water is deep in the Sound, and I noted the depth sounder reading 188 feet at one point. Unfortunately, we did not see any dolphins or other sea life. I guess those are more common in the ocean.
When we got close to Mystic, we found an easy to reach fuel dock, and I was impressed when my crew jumped into action, we had the lines and fenders in place in under a minute, just as I was pulling up to the dock. A huge improvement over our earlier experiences, and everything was handled much more calmly and smoothly with Ann, Elana and Benny each comfortable and experienced in their roles. Professionals!
The rest of the way to Mystic was in a marked channel in a no wake zone, and I was easily able to navigate it without any equipment, which was good, because according to my chart plotter we were on land some of the time. I wrote to Navionics who provides the data chip with the maps and asked them how come I have no data on my charts. Haven’t heard back yet. Looks like I’ll be dataless on my charts until Martha’s Vineyard in a few days.
As we approached Mystic, we had to wait for the railroad swing bridge to open. I called on the radio and the bridge tender said “5 minutes”. About 15 minutes later, a train went by, and then 5 minutes later the bridge opened, and we went through. The one bad thing about a marina next to a train bridge is that you are next to a train bridge, so now every 15-20 minutes a loud train goes by, and they seem to feel they need to honk when they are on a swinging bridge. We are docked about 50 yards from the tracks. Let’s see how late they run…
As soon as we got through the bridge, we saw the dockhand signaling at our slip. It was a scary looking docking situation. I had to turn us around in a busy bridge crossing channel with another large boat coming behind me. Once I did that, I had to back into a slip right next to another boat about the same size as ours, with a current pushing me away from that boat and into the edge of the moving bridge, and with little room and no pilings between us. Of course, the owner of the boat was on his bow cleaning it, so I got to do this right in front of him. I had to fight the current and straighten out the boat and line it up with the slip. Of course, Ann is behind me telling me I’m not going to make it, but I had a plan, and I stayed even with the slip, on the side away from the other boat and down current from it, and eased Sababa in until I had 6 inches to spare, and then I slowly started to move back and inch the boat into the current and away from the dock as I backed her in. It went very smoothly, and I was pretty proud of myself, but I realized how intense the whole experience was when I caught my breath afterwards. One of the more stressful docking experiences I’ve had in a while, but I felt very good when the guy on the other boat told me that as soon as he saw how I was approaching it, he was not in the least bit worried. Called me a pro!
So, of course, as soon as we get all the lines tied and the power connected, Ann suggests that maybe I should turn the boat around so that we can get our dingy out in the morning. Luckily, she agreed that maybe that’s something we should do tomorrow. Hopefully, she’ll decide we don’t really need our dingy in Mystic after all. Not loving the idea of docking it again here. But if I have to, I have to.
Once the boat was secured, I took a shower, and we headed into town. It was only a short walk, which gave me hope that we won’t need to use the dingy here.
Of course, we went to the restaurant that made this place famous, Mystic Pizza. Kind of corny because they had TVs all over the place running the movie on endless loop. The back of the menu told the story of how a movie producer traveling through town decided it was the perfect spot to stage her story, and the rest is history. The pizza was actually pretty good!
Besides a famous pizza restaurant, the town also has a pretty well known and seriously cool drawbridge. There are large cement blocks 50 feet in the air that counterbalance the bridge when it opens. The bridge opens every hour at 40 minutes after the hour, assuming there is a boat that wants to cross. During off season, they require 8 hours notice to open it. Presumably that’s how long it takes to get someone there to set everything up and open the bridge.
After dinner, we walked back to the boat, and I did a thorough washing down from stern to bow. It’s supposed to thunderstorm overnight, but a hard rain won’t wash off all the salt the way my washing does. So, we’re in for the evening. Benny on his video games, Elana texting on the phone with friends, Ann reading and talking on the phone, and I’m working on my laptop. Typical evening on the Rubin boat. On to Providence, Rhode Island!
This blog written by Avi Rubin chronicles the boating adventure of the Rubin family in July, 2017. Casting off in Baltimore with Boston as the destination and many stops along the way.