Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Sucked in

I've never been as happy to leave a place as I was to leave Atlantic City. The Atlantic City harbour is an atrocious little whole that literally sucks you in. We hoped to bypass this port altogether and head straight for Cape May out of Sandy Hook last Friday, but by mid afternoon, when we reached the area, we were making very slow progress in opposing winds and Atlantic City seemed like a good place to call it the day. Especially that Edgar and Ginette were already in there. They went ahead and turned towards the port for a scheduled stopover, while Gabe and I tried to make more headway south. Having made very little ground in hours, we decided to join Pegasus in the city that's "always turned on". 
The skyline of it exploded out of the dark sky like fireworks. Buildings illuminated with shades of purple, orange and green flashed on the horizon, drawing us in like a beacon. It was obnoxious. And very distracting. I called Ginette to let her and Edgar know that we will be meeting up with them after all, and got a few words of caution from them concerning the port entry. Ginette told me that they ran aground, 3 times, coming through the main channel, where channel marker lights and traffic lights from the streets on shore merge into one messy blur. As we pulled in closer and closer, we were not surprised that crew might be steered wrong in these waters. Some of the channel markers were not showing up on the GPS and in the dark it is hard to judge the distance between them and the boat. But with Edgar's guidance we were able to avoid making the same mistake, and shortly joined them at the State Marina dock, where they were already tied up and calming their nerves with cocktails. 
Having spent a restful night at a dock, where we could plug into shore power and enjoy the comforts of electric heaters, we felt rejuvenated and ready for more adventure. And boy did we get it. 
We snuck out of port and back out to sea before office hours. What we save on marina fees we contribute directly into the sauce fund. I'm not trying to brag about being a freeloading lush, but this lifestyle definitely comes with a few benefits. But back to our story. Despite discouraging weather forecasts, we decided to make a run from Atlantic City to at least Cape May, but the going was slow and tedious just like the night before and we turned back. Being cheeky as we are, we pulled right back into State Marina, tied up and got away with it for most of the day, until the dock master informed us around 5PM that we had overstayed our welcome. With no other place to go, and no room for their expensive fees in our cruising budget we had no choice but go to anchor. The only anchorage lay in a shallow bay at the top of the main channel and, this being the weekend, was riddled with small fishing boats buzzing all around us. It was hard to get into and hard to stay put. Winds coming from the south and the tide ebbing east made the boat unstable. After half hour of being bounced around we chose to get back into the marina, preferably unnoticed. Making our way through the treacherous channel again we came up on a mud bank. That was unexpected. With a few hard revs of the motor in reverse we were able to break loose of the mucky bottom, but while swinging around towards our destination we got stuck in another mud bank. This time for good. We raised both sails to try to help lift the keel out of the mud, but it was no good. The thick silt engulfed the bottom of the boat and as the tide went down, it sucked us more and more into its sloppy entrails. That's what we get for trying to be sly. 
Unable to get ourselves out we called Tow Boat U.S., a towing service we purchased as a precaution before departing Canada. Nearly 2 hours later Captain John showed in a small tug boat, secured a few lines to Rodeo and gently pulled her to freedom. He then escorted us to a fueling dock nearby, where Gabe filled out some paperwork and was on his way out shortly after. We spent the night tied to the fueling dock, hesitant to go anywhere else in the dark. It was already late and we've had enough thrills for the day. After arranging to make another tandem passage along Pegasus, we were out of the ominous shallows of Atlantic City a day later. Its bright carnival of lights, still turned on, appeared dampened by the morning mist and as we motored away we were glad to see it fade into the horizon behind us. 

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