Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Boldly going where few loopers have gone before gives us the Gold.

My god is it Cold!  Early in the morning Anna and I pushed off from Cape May, NJ.  The weather for the next five three days is calling for heavy winds and seas off the Jersey coast.  If we are going to cross our wake this week and start our run back to Nantucket, we are going to have to do something drastic.  As I have mentioned in the past there are a few major hurdles that must be crossed in order to complete the Great Loop.  The most obvious would be crossing the Gulf from Carrabelle to Clearwater Fl.  Others would be navigating the Mississippi with it heavy current and barge traffic or being mindful of the heavy winds and seas in Lake Michigan.  One of the less popular with regards to loop conversation is the trek from the bottom of NJ to Sandy Hook.  Having grown up off Sandy Hook, I know all to well the dangers of running offshore this time of year.  The water is cold and the winds can be relentless.  At a temperature of 40 degrees, a healthy man is thought to be able to swim 40 yards before he begins to cramp and feel the effects of Hypothermia.  These are not conditions anyone wants to find themselves in if there is an emergency.  If you run on the outside this time of year odds are you will be alone.  On occasion you will see a fishing trawler making way for Barnegat bay or the Manasquan inlet but for the most part you have got the coast to your self.  If Anna and I were to make a decision to run on the outside the conditions would have to be perfect.  As luck would have it no such conditions lay on our predictable horizon.  That left us with two options, wait or run the old ICW of NJ.  The old intercoastal waterway of NJ was abandoned by the core of engineers some years ago.  People still use it, but it's navigated with a large amount of local knowledge do to the constant shoaling.  With our boat drawing a smidge less than four feet Anna and I believed that if we run on a rising tide we just might be able to pull it off.  What the hell we thought.  We got sea tow and Boat US at the start of this trip and we have never had to use it.  Lets give it a go.  Our run from Cape May seemed to be going according to plan until we got about 3 miles from Atlantic City.  As we rounded a bend in the channel we encountered a bridge that was covered with tarps.  I checked the charts and verified that there was a 6 foot vertical clearance making it impossible to get under even if we waited till low tide.  The bridge tender radioed us and confirmed that fact that the bridge would not be in operation for another two weeks.  I asked him why it was not listed in the notice to mariners and he responded that he didn't think the contractor wanted to advertise that he was so overdue.  This presented a major problem.  We would have to backtrack five miles and run on the outside till the safety of Atlantic city's inlet.  Anna readied the boat and with white knuckles off we went.  The swells were huge, but Blue pushed us through and in an hour and a half we had made it safely back in.  Anna and I tied up in AC that night feeling as if we had dodged a huge bullet.  After a rough nights sleep Anna and I woke about 5 am and decided today is the day.  The winds in the afternoon were forcasted to turn to the south east giving us a few hours of good weather on the outside to run from Manasquan to Sandy Hook.  We pushed off and kept our eye's pealed to the depth sounder as if alarmed constantly as Blue's bottom came inches from the bottom as we ran up the inside.  I was so thankful to have Anna helping me through those channels, she would watch the paper charts and keep an eye on the upcoming buoys as I tried my best to keep us in the middle of the winding channels.  Our arrival to the Manasquan inlet left Blue bumping the bottom as we pushed through.  At one point I was sure we would ground but Blue slipped over the shoals as if she was determined not to fail us now.  Leaving the Manasquan inlet we ran up the engine and made a dash for Sandy Hook.  Coming round the point we could see the hills of Highlands off in the distance and with a sigh of relief and a long hug Anna and I crossed our wake completing the Great Loop portion of our cruise.  Our emotions were strange, of course we were happy but we were also sad.  The great loop was a dream for so long, and now with it done it is hard to know how to feel.  There is no question this trip has changed us.  We are different people than we were a year ago, our horizons are broader and our minds are filled with wonderful people places and memories.  As my father cracked a bottle of Champagne on the dock in Red Bank, we toasted our success.  The first completion is done, now we will be off for Nantucket where in our minds our trip will truly be complete.  I feel we miss our family and friends more now than ever.  It will be nice to cruise New England's waters back to Nantucket we hope to have a few weeks to catch up before we will pack up and head south to our new life in Florida.  

Anna thought it was funny to take this picture as I looked at the charts and contemplated our decision to run the inside of NJ.  Man I hope this works I thought.

Running the outside to Sandy Hook. If all goes well this will be the last time a white AGLCA burgee will fly on Blue's Bow.

At this point off Sandy Hook 5:09 PM Anna and I crossed our wake completing the Great Loop. Seeing Long Island off in the distance we wished it was Nantucket.  We can't wait to get back. 

I have seen these lights my whole life, but never before has it meant so much to see them off in the distance.

Not nearly as many boats in the water this time of year, nice to know we will have no problem getting a slip.

As we crossed under the Oceanic Bridge on our way up the Navasink, we called our families and told them the good news.


After a long day we pulled in to the dock in downtown Red Bank.

My Dad had no problem popping a bottle of Campaign to toast our completion.  It was so nice to see my family, it had been to long.

After three days we pushed off to Connecticut, their has been a new addition to the family and we want to meet her.

A short car drive and we got to meet Maeve, our new niece born six weeks ago.  She looked good with her Grandma, Grandpa and big brother Jeffrey.

I have to tell you we missed Chris and Deirdre so much this past year, we can't wait till they all come down and visit us in our new home in Florida.

Good thing we had the gold looper flag.  Our old Bergee ripped in the wind off NJ.

What a great feeling!


  1. Your last leg of the Loop was very exciting and gave us much to think about...Glad you made it safe and sound...
    Pete and Joanne

  2. The photo"Momma and Calf Manatee hanging out by our boat at the Marina." Is wonderful. Please contact me at lmitchell@mote.org. I'd like to get your permission to use it in a publication about Manatee Research at our Lab.