July 17, 2017

East Boothbay, Maine, 43.8636° N 69.5861° W

First off, please allow me to apologize for the very scant amount of communication that I was putting out this past month as I sailed Midnight Voyageur from Charleston, South Carolina to Boothbay, Maine. This is the first time Midnight Voyageur has been in the water in three years and I didn’t want to jinx the expedition by assuming I would actually complete the voyage. I’ve never thought of myself as superstitious, but I did avoid leaving on a Friday and I don’t like to share plans in detail when there are too many intangibles to take into account, especially given that the boat has been out of commission for three years.

Map - Eastcoast

In any case, Midnight Voyageur performed beautifully and is safe and sound at Ocean Point Marina in East Boothbay, Maine for the next month. Below is a summary of the trip:

Charleston to New York

On this leg, I was accompanied by my childhood friend and master boatbuilder, Jim Noland, and his friend Patrick Driggers. We had a blissful three-day sail from Charleston to Norfolk, VA by way of the infamous Cape Hatteras. The weather was perfect and we even decided to stop and go swimming in the warm deep blue waters of the Gulf Stream, a surreal experience for sure. Once we rounded the cape, that evening we sailed under a full moon with 15 knots of wind. Normally, after midnight, the crew can’t wait to get off their respective watch to get some rest. However, with the moon reflecting off the water, gentle following sea and rhythmic motion of the boat, I noticed that no one wanted to give up their watch.

After taking a day to rest and do some plumbing and diesel repairs (thank God for Jim and Patrick) in Norfolk, we set off for New York. Unfortunately, the weather turned and we had a cold rain with wind and current against us for most of the passage up the coast of Delaware and New Jersey; and that in a nutshell is what sailing is all about. As the gurus declare, you have to say, “yes” to it all. This is certainly true of ocean sailing; you don’t get to selectively pick blissful moonlit evenings without accepting that it might be followed by three-days of stinging rain.


By the time we landed in the Great Kills Harbor on Staten Island, the three of us were exhausted but happy. I must say it was a bit jarring to go from the Norfolk, “how y’all doin?” to the Staten Island, “Yous from Minnesota? I went dare once and almost froze my cannoli’s off.” While it did feel like we had entered an episode of the Sopranos, the people could not have been more welcoming, warm and helpful.

New York to Norwalk, CT

After going back to work in Minnesota for a week, I returned to Staten Island and decided to do this leg by myself. I’ve read a lot about the heavy freighter, ferry, tug traffic in the upper NY harbor and the crazy currents in the East River and, as a result, I didn’t feel comfortable having inexperienced family or friends on this leg, especially given that I’ve never been through this area myself. Given the complexities of this route, I determined that I would have to leave the Great Kills Harbor at 3am to catch the current just right. When it comes to sailing, I always take steps to be prudent and plan carefully. However, I have enough experience to know that no amount of planning will guarantee that reality will comply.

Sure enough, what I could not plan for was the fact that the Great Kills Harbor chart does not reflect the damage done by Hurricane Sandy which resulted in it being much shallower, especially at the entrance. In other words, at 3am during low tide, I discovered that I couldn’t get out of the harbor, I was trapped on Staten Island. I tried going down the middle of the channel and went aground in mud. In disbelief, I made a few more unsuccessful attempts before I gave up and called the coast guard and they informed me that it wasn’t my imagination. They mentioned that the Great Kills Harbor was devastated by Sandy (which explains why I counted several masts sticking out of the water) and that the channel had not been dredged and suggested that I wait for high tide, six hours later! Of course, waiting that long would make me miss my window to go up the East River….hmmm, what to do? I decided to give it one more try and go with the counterintuitive route which brought me very close to shore. As I inched my way along waiting for that dreaded tugging sensation of going aground in mud, I was so close to shore that it I felt like I could step off the boat. Nevertheless, after ten minutes of holding my breath, I emerged into the deeper waters of the lower NY harbor – yay!

Midnight Voyageur

As it turns out, I made it to the lower East River just in time to catch the current. In fact, as the East River narrows with Roosevelt Island on my right and the UN building on my left, I was amazed at the power of the current; think rolling rapids like the Colorado River. Under power at full throttle, I can go 5.5 knots; with the current my SOG (speed over ground) topped out at 11.8 knots! Once I finished this section of the river, I turned due east and entered what is known as Hell Gate, a maelstrom of currents where the East River meets the Long Island Sound. While I did take note of the swirling, “whirpool like” water surrounding me, I marveled at how Midnight Voyageur, with her 28,000 pounds of ballast, simply plowed through these waters. The remainder of this leg up the Long Island Sound to Norwalk was uneventful.

Norwalk, CT to Martha’s Vineyard, MA

In Norwalk, I was joined by my sister, Amy, and her three boys, Patrick, Danny and Colin. Our first day out was an easy passage to Brandford, CT. Unfortunately, upon waking the next morning, Colin had an allergic reaction to something and he and Amy had to disembark and go to the local clinic.

Midnight Voyageur

Patrick, Dan and I motored up to Essex where we met back up with Amy and Colin and my other sister, Mary. Essex is one of my favorite little towns and has a very rich history going back to the Revolutionary War. After a nice dinner, it was decided that Colin was still not 100% and it would be best to reschedule the family adventure. It was the wise thing to do and I, subsequently, had two days of easy sailing up to Block Island and Martha’s Vineyard.

Martha’s Vineyard to Boston

On Martha’s Vineyard, I was joined by Angelika, Liza and my college friends Will and Sharon Johns and their boys Michael and Charlie. The Johns family have been sailing with me for the past thirteen years and we have had many adventures that stretch from Seattle to Victoria to Lake Superior to Puerto Vallarta. In fact, whenever they get aboard, we seem to get 30 knots of headwind; it never seems to discourage these hardened veterans. Our first day did not disappoint; our intention was to do an easy day sail from Vineyard Haven to Edgartown, but that was not to be. After pounding into large waves and a huge headwind for a few hours, I decided to employ a very technical nautical maneuver, “Enough of this, let’s go back and take Uber!”

Midnight Voyageur

The next day we navigated through Woods Hole in thick fog. I’m not sure I’ll ever get used to the fog horns and the low hum of big diesel engines from ferries that I can’t see! The rest of this leg through the Cape Cod Canal and up to Provincetown (where everyone is welcome!) to Boston was easy and enjoyable.

Midnight Voyageur

Boston to Boothbay

We had one final dinner at a favorite Irish pub in Boston and the next day the Johns family and Liza flew home. Angelika and I then had a perfect sail through the night and landed in East Boothbay, Maine the next morning. I must say, arriving in Maine with the sun coming up while weaving around rocky islands, lighthouses, and countless lobster pots was a truly enchanting experience.

Midnight Voyageur

Midnight Voyageur is safe and sound in the Ocean Point Marina where she’ll be getting some repairs done. Stay tuned, more adventures to follow later this summer…