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The Down East Loop - Ocean Passages

In the last 48 hours I experienced my two favorite times on the water; watching the sun go down and seeing it rise. Cruising offshore on a boat is still one of those rare opportunities to inject a little adventure into our lives while testing ourselves. There’s just something refreshing about getting off a boat after a few days in the ocean and being, well, not very refreshed. Dead tired, but invigorated. Slightly smelly, but revitalized. I love it!

Fuel for boats

Arnie and I departed Newport, Rhode Island on Wednesday morning after fueling up and headed to Old Saybrook, Connecticut at the mouth of the Connecticut River. (If you ever have the opportunity, spend some time exploring the river. It’s a wonderful spot.)

I conducted a quick pit stop to drop off Arnie, pick up Gary De Sanctis, and top off our fuel. My original plan was to run west through Long Island Sound, down the East River and exit into the Atlantic at Sandy Hook, New Jersey. However, the weather window was narrowing at the end of the week when a fairly weak high-pressure system would be shoved over by a cold front, bringing 15-20 knot winds with higher gusts along with 5 to 7 foot seas on the nose. If I darted out into the ocean for a longer leg, we would avoid this system.

“Could this boat handle that weather?” Gary asked.

Gary at the helm as the sun sets over the Atlantic Ocean.

“Umm, I don’t really want to find out,” I answered.

I’m not sure when it happened. I simply no longer actively seek to test my boat or myself by reenacting some heroic Victory at Sea skit, crawling across a teak and holly sole, catching projectile can goods, while questioning my sanity. Hell, those moments tend to find me even if I try earnestly to avoid them. Maybe it’s age. So when given the opportunity, I don’t hesitate changing up my itinerary.

Gary suggested we head 8-miles across the Sound to Peconic Bay and exit into the Atlantic Ocean via the Shinnecock Inlet. The forecast was for light winds 5 to 10 knots and swell out of the southwest. Perfect! We would cruise through the night on the Atlantic and stop in Atlantic City for fuel, and then keep moving to Annapolis.

In Old Sayrbook we added an extra 10-gallons of diesel in jerry cans and then topped off the tanks again after the 20-mile run from Old Saybrook to Shinnecock. I’m all about safety margins when offshore and we had an air lock in the fuel system that left me far from confident that we were indeed filling up our 100- gallon tank completely. So, I set the fuel capacity of the Garmin 7212 at 90 gallons versus 100 gallons, and took a little reserve in the cans, and off we went.

The Ocean was almost flat calm by the time the sun rose Thursday morning.

Cruising at 10 knots Wednesday night after clearing Shinnecock and Thursday morning, we burned about 5.6 gallons per hour. The speed was comfortable offshore as we navigated around the busy shipping lanes going into Ambrose. Even 50 miles from land we were busy marking MARPA targets and reviewing AIS information. After a hot dog dinner along with some fine Italian cheeses, Gary and I went on a watch system of two hours on and two hours off. I sleep incredibly well offshore and after being scolded by an old school captain years ago for being two minutes late to my watch, I set an alarm and dose off completely content for my two-hour spell.

Around 3 a.m. a neon orange crescent moon rose over our stern, painting a memorable landscape just for us.

“Check that out Gary.” He gave a quick glance behind his shoulder and shot me a disapproving frown. “Check that out George,” motioning over our bow. It turns out he was more interested in the display of Christmas Tree lights on the tug 2 miles to our south than pretty pictures.

By 6 am, we were making good time to Atlantic City and pulled back the throttle to about 8.8 knots to time our arrival when the fuel dock opened in the morning. After a quick breakfast, we took on 78 gallons of diesel and decided to keep going to Chesapeake City on the C&D Canal via the Cape May Inlet and Canal.

Thursday marked the one-month anniversary of the Cutwater’s departure from Maryland on her abridged Down East loop trip. She’s cruised a hell of distance and was humming along. Heading past the Atlantic City seawall back into the Atlantic, I began to wish we developed a more extensive cruise with the folks at Cutwater. Maybe a little ICW cruise and Florida Keys Adventure? First we need to get back to Annapolis. Stay tuned. 

After a night of dodging tugs and container ships, the sun was a welcome sight.
Atlantic City offers a good layover for vessels cruising along the New Jersey coast
Waiting to top off fuel in Atlantic City. We took on 78 gallons after 165 miles.

The Down East Loop ▶