Post # 56: HOMEWARD BOUND! Day 406; June 11, 2015. On Board: Tom McNichol, Hank (my Dad), Kate Koningisor (sis), Jim K.
First and foremost, Trish is recovering well from the surgery on her leg. She’ll be on crutches for another five weeks and can’t drive until late August, but she’s tough and resilient and doing well. Her wonderful friends have been incredible, showering her with attention, well-wishes, food, visits, flowers, fruit – just amazing. Thank you to everyone!
So we drove back to Manasquan, NJ last Thursday, a week after Trish’s surgery, to retrieve the Joint Adventure. We stopped in New York City on our way through and picked up my sister Kate who planned to ride with us for the next three days. The forecast for Friday was not good, but we decided to leave very early hoping that we might be able to make the three hour sprint through the open ocean into the Hudson River before the seas kicked up. Bad decisions make good stories (fortunately, this story isn’t TOO good…). We emerged from the inlet into 6-8 foot seas. For the first time on the entire trip, we turned back and returned to the dock. So we spent the day in Manasquan, exploring and going to a movie. Here are some pictures:
The wind Saturday morning was calm, but predicted to increase to 20 knots in the morning with rain. So we again left very early (6:15), and this time it worked – although we ran through heavy rain and fog, the 5′ swells were wide and gentle and we beat the wind into the Hudson River. The wind started to increase as we passed Sandy Hook, and we had whitecaps in the Hudson by the time we reached Manhattan. But we made it to New York! Here are some pictures:
The marinas on the New York side of the river have no protection from wakes from the constant ferry traffic that plies New York Harbor, so we stayed on the Jersey side at Liberty Landing Marina, which has direct ferry service every 30 minutes to New York – just a 10 minute ride. We needed to move along to get home, so we were only able to spend one day in the Big Apple. We therefore decided to go to the 9/11 Memorial and Museum at the site of the World Trade Center (now the Freedom Tower). The Memorial consists of two deep holes in the ground lined with black marble that trace the foundation walls of the two former towers. A continuous flow of water spills over the walls, where it collects and then cascades into a deeper hole in the middle, the bottom of which is not visible from the edge of the Memorial. The name of each person who perished is engraved in the marble along the perimeter of each tower. It is a very powerful memorial. The Museum, entirely underground, is expansive – it includes film clips from 9/11, personal accounts from survivors and first responders, recordings and accounts from officials trying to understand what was happening and how to respond to it, remnants of the towers, and much more than I could describe in a meaningful way in this forum. It is worth spending half a day to remember and assess the significance of what happened there.
Here are a few images:
On Sunday, we waited until 9:30 to cast off the lines so we would transit the East River and aptly-named Hell’s Gate at slack tide. The passage is notorious due to its ferocious tidal current, standing waves, and rapids, particularly when winds oppose the tidal currents. The passage can be treacherous in today’s world, but in earlier days the danger of the strong currents was exacerbated by numerous obstructions. In 1850’s, the Army Corp of Engineers began to clear some of the obstructions, a process that would go on for 70 years. In 1876, the Army Corp used 50,000 pounds of explosives to blast dangerous rocks. However, that effort was dwarfed 12 years later when the Corp set off 300,000 pounds of explosives – the blast was felt as far away as Princeton, NJ, sent a geyser 25 stories into the air, and has been described as “the largest planned explosion before testing began for the atomic bomb.” Despite these efforts, by the late 19th century, literally hundreds of ships had sunk attempting to transit Hell’s Gate.
However, none of those bad things happened to us. Winds were fairly calm, and we had an uneventful passage. Here are a few pictures from our run around the Battery and into Long Island Sound:
I recounted this story in the blog a year ago when we passed through New York, but I just have to summarize it here. The Brooklyn Bridge was designed by a pioneer in the art of suspension bridges by the name of John Roebling, one of the few engineers in the world who had successfully designed cable suspension bridges. This one was far longer than any he had ever attempted. However, while conducting a survey for the bridge, Roebling’s foot was crushed between a ferry and a piling while he was conducting a survey for the bridge. His toes were amputated, but he died of tetanus a couple of weeks later. With no one else to turn to, the Trustees reluctantly named Roebling’s 32 year old son, Washington Roebling, as Chief Engineer, since Washington had been working with his father on the design of the bridge. Construction of the foundation caissons for the two supporting piers began in 1869. Two giant wooden boxes, open at the bottom, were floated over the location of the two piers and sunk. Compressed air was pumped into the boxes to force the water out, and men were sent inside the boxes with picks and shovels to dig beneath the boxes. Excavated material as well as access by the workmen passed through air locks, similar to those used on a submarine. As the box sank further into the ground beneath the floor of the river, the pressure of the compressed air had to continually increase to keep out the increasing pressure of the water. Soon workmen started to suffer from a mysterious disease that confounded medical experts at the time. We now know that they were suffering from the bends, as they emerged from the chamber filled with compressed air without any decompression. As a result, in January of 1870, shortly after taking over as Chief Engineer and after construction on the bridge had just begun, Washington Roebling suffered a paralyzing case of the bends. From that point on, he was unable to visit the construction site and supervised the entire construction from his apartment with a view of the site. His wife, Emily Roebling, became his eyes and ears and his conduit of communication for the next 11 years of construction, transmitting information back and forth from the site to Washington. In the process, she studied higher mathematics, the calculations of catenary curves, material science, and the intricacies of cable construction. Many historians have concluded that she became the de facto engineer for the bridge, making many key design decisions on her own. The entire story is described in an outstanding book which reads like a novel entitled The Great Bridge by David McCullough – a truly remarkable story which I highly recommend!
Please note that, when transiting the East River from NY Harbor to Long Island, one passes under about a dozen remarkable, iconic bridges. Using all my willpower, I have restrained myself from posting any more of these beautiful structures.
The East River led us into Long Island Sound, with our destination being Norwalk, Connecticut. Norwalk is an upscale city with manageable train access to New York, and has a multitude of restaurants, pubs, and shops in magnificent old, historic buildings. Here is an image from the main street:
Our main focus for stopping in Norwalk was to rendezvous with our good friends Tom and Tim from the vessel IF. You may remember them as the grandfather/grandson team doing the Great Loop together, whom we first met in Trenton, Ontario last June ( a year ago!). We have hop-scotched with them throughout the trip, meeting up along the way for some wonderful outings, including a visit to our favorite anchorage, known as “The Pool”, in the North Channel of Lake Huron. Our most recent encounters were in Boca Grande, Florida, where Tim served us an incredible home-cooked meal aboard IF, and a visit to Fort Myers, Florida, where Tim & I went out together and checked out a few clubs. We’ve stayed in touch since then, following each others’ trip, and finally were able to link up again in Norwalk. Tom, his lovely bride Alice, and Tim are currently in Mamaroneck, NY visiting family, so they were kind enough to drive to Norwalk to meet us for a wonderful dinner together. Here are a few pictures:
We planned to leave early the next morning before the winds increased, but an engine alarm sounded when we started the port (left) engine. It took until early afternoon to determine that it was caused by a faulty connection in the alarm rather than a problem with the engine. We cast off about 2:00 PM, but by then the wind had increased to 20 knots – after a couple of miles in the open water, we decided to turn back and try again Wednesday morning. We cast off in calm seas early in the morning and ran 98 miles to Watch Hill, Rhode Island when the wind had again kicked up and the fog rolled in, which convinced us to stop. Watch Hill is an affluent beach town which came to prominence in the late 19th and early 20th centuries as an exclusive summer resort characterized by enormous Victorian homes built by wealthy families. According to an article in the New York Times from that time period, it is a community “with a strong sense of privacy and discreetly used wealth” as opposed to “the overpowering castles of the very rich” in Newport, RI. Taylor Swift recently purchased a large Victorian mansion from this era, and has made Watch Hill her home.
The Hurricane of 1938 devastated Watch Hill – on Fort Road, which ran along a sand spit in Watch Hill, 39 homes completely disappeared within hours. Today the sand spit is a vacant beach. Here are some images from Watch Hill:
We again planned a long day, steaming 90 miles across the open waters of Block Island Sound and Rhode Island Sound, then through the Cape Cod Canal. This time the weather cooperated, however, with sunny skies and lighter winds than we’ve had in several weeks. We’re currently docked in Sandwich, Ma. at the eastern end of the Cape Cod Canal, which was our first stop 13 1/2 months ago. Hard to believe we’re nearly back at the beginning, near the end of the voyage.
Early readers of the blog may recall this picture from the first blog post from Sandwich last May – the caption is self-explanatory:
Here is the same machine now:
One more blog post to go, upon completion of the Great Loop Adventure….