There aren’t many marinas where you can develop sea legs tied up at the dock. Once we had accomplished that at Newport Marina across from New York City, we were prepared for an overnight open-ocean leg. The passage from New York to Cape May, New Jersey, would take approximately twenty hours, so in order to run with the tides and arrive in daylight, we cast off at 1:45 p.m.
New York harbor held plenty of excitement, partly because of boat traffic to contend with, but mostly because of our close-up views of Ellis Island, the Statue of Liberty, and the Manhattan skyline. The weather staged perfect photo opportunities.
Long after we were out of the harbor and heading down the Jersey coast, the sun set. Before darkness had a chance to settle in, we viewed a miniature fireworks extravaganza at one of the coastal cities (miniature because we were five miles out). Even for us, they had some “ooh!” and “aah!” effect. Several seconds after the grand finale, the sound effects of the boomers reverberated across the water. Another light extravaganza down the shore: Atlantic City’s 3 a.m. display brightened the skies for miles around.
On Keith’s last watch, a Northern Flicker flew into the cockpit and was contented enough to sit still while Keith retrieved the camera from below and snapped a couple pictures. Flickers are ant-eating woodpeckers about a foot long; our boat must have been a welcome oasis on his fall migration route.
At 8 a.m. we pulled in to Cape May past a pair of dolphins cavorting in the inlet. After a fuel stop, we anchored and rewarded ourselves with a pot of strong coffee.
Keith went online to check the weather and the NOAA buoys and found favorable conditions. Knowing that we can't devote the time we would like to the Chesapeake Bay with our plan to fly to Italy on October 8 to celebrate our 25th anniversary (fireworks!), we decided to bypass that cruising haven until next time and leave by noon on another overnight sea leg to Norfolk, Virginia. First we tried to nap with no success. Caffeine, maybe?
So we headed offshore again for another passage of about the same duration. Ten miles offshore this time, because the Delmarva (Delaware, Maryland, Virginia) Coast is peppered with shoals. Just a half mile off our route was a NOAA weather buoy, one of a network of ninety buoys on the ocean as well as in the Great Lakes. They provide hourly observations of wind speed and direction, barometric pressure, and wave height to help boaters determine if they want to venture offshore. These trusty buoys have been Keith's friendly navigation advisors for years, but he had never personally met one. Being in the neighborhood, we had to drop by for a quick visit. I was prepared to be completely underwhelmed, but I had to agree he was a cute little guy.
The sun set again and a harvest-orange moon gradually emerged where the sky met the sea. We were such a tiny speck on an immense ocean, and these verses came to mind: “God, high above, sees far below; no matter the distance, he knows everything about us.... I look behind me and you're there, then up ahead and you're there, too—your reassuring presence, coming and going” (Psalm 138:6; 139:5).
With nightfall, the wind picked up. We shut down the engine and sailed a perfect beam reach throughout the night, arriving at the southern entrance to Chesapeake Bay in twenty-knot winds and five-foot seas.