We departed Bristol, RI around 3 pm and motored several miles against a light South wind to Portsmouth to get fuel. We pumped 130 gallons of diesel aboard and departed. It was 4pm by the time we had the mainsail up. We beat down the Bay under full main and staysail with a gradually building SSE breeze.
A few well sailed monohulls we going the same direction and from a starting position well behind and to leeward of them we were able climb up over them in a reasonably short time. The staysail was barely enough sail for the breeze but we had to tack several times so we left the genoa rolled up.
After clearing Castle Hill the wind increased and lifted toward the SE. I was licking my chops thinking of the fine reach we'd have once around Pt. Judith. The waves were 4-5' and a bit sloppy due to the outgoing tide. Lely was charging along at a steady 10+kts. The motion was very nice with very little spray.
Half way to Pt. Judith we sailed right out of the wind, which was a bit of a surprise as it had been so steady. We turned on the engines in order to power thru the calm spot. After 10 minutes the wind filled in from the SW. Pt. Judith wasn't far away and we motor sailed for 20 min. in order to get around it before dark. The SW'ly turned out to be a seabreeze front which gradually worked back around toward the south. At Pt. Judith we could easily lay the Race (the entrance to Long Island Sound) and after a few minutes we exchanged the staysail for the genoa. Lely loved that and her speed jumped from a steady 9 kts. up to 11 and 12 kts. Wind was SSW at 12 to 14.
The wind lifted toward the SSE and built to 15-17 kts. We were making a steady 11-13 with an occasional 15-16 in the puffs. We were starting to fight some current and we expected the current at the Race to be full bore against us. Two hours later as we got into the 4 knot ebb current in the Race the waves became steeper although not large. Hoping that the waves might briefly build to surfing size I hand steered in the cockpit, but no luck. The steering was extremely docile and responsive and Lely just blasted through it all making steady teens. By 9pm we were through the narrow section of the Race and looking ahead at the dark expanse of eastern L.I. Sound.
At that point the wind moderated to 10 -12 kts on the beam and the seas were flat. Perfect conditions! Lely just slid along at a steady 10 to 11 knots without any detectable heel or pitch. I took the opportunity to lie down for a couple hours of sleep.
At midnight I relieved the owner from his watch. From the aft deck, watching the water stream off the leeward hull forming a small rooster tail was quite a sight and made me realize how fast we were moving. By then it was quite chilly outside. Between the cold damp and the 18 knots apparent wind on deck my trips into the cockpit to tweak the sail trim were short. I can't believe that I used to sit out in the cold all night long, and that some sailors still do! I sat in the pilot house warm and dry, laughing at how easy it was. And wondering why it had taken me so long to figure out that this was the way to go cruising.
On my watch we passed two sailboats headed the same direction. Our speed was so much greater it seemed they were anchored! To starboard New Haven came and went. We were making great time and if the wind held we'd be to New York in time for breakfast. At 3am the next watch came up and I ducked into the mid cabin for another nap.
The sound of rushing water woke me. I lay in my bunk for a minute or two listening to Lely charging along much faster than before, thinking maybe the watch needed a hand rolling up some sail. Just then the electric winch motor and vibrating jib sheet told me that, yes, that time had come. Bleary eyed, I stumbled into the helm seat in the pilot house to see where we were. Oh man, things were happening. The forecast rain had started and with it the wind had come up. We were surrounded by lights and land. Execution Rocks was less than a mile ahead and closing fast, various buoys were flashing but thoroughly mixed in with the background lights of shore, there was a tug with barge in tow ahead and to port. This is where the Nav area in the pilothouse is so helpful. We could get our bearings by standing in the pilothouse and matching what we saw out the windows with what we saw on the chartplotter.
The evening before I had never expected to be passing through this area in the dark but we made such good time here we were with an hour or more before daylight. We followed our way down the marked channel, under the Throgs Neck Bridge then the Whitestone. The first bit of light appeared in the sky to the east so we again slowed ourselves in order to have better light going down the East River. The current was modest and favorable in Hell Gate and by then there was plenty of daylight. We were able to sail through the Gate and didn't crank up the engines until we had the FDR Drive 25 yards to starboard. A strong ebb tide helped us around lower Manhattan and we turned up the Hudson in driving rain looking for the marina so the owner could spend some time in the city and I could catch a train home.
Dividing the point to point distance by the elapsed time I get an average of 10.2 knots for the trip from Portsmouth to the East River. Considering that the wind was generally in the 10 to 15 range and that we had to battle the current through the whole eastern part of Long Island Sound I think that is pretty respectable. In fact it took 4 hours on the Amtrak train to retrace what we sailed in 11 hours. If the perfect cruising boat existed, or more specifically if I ever thought that I had designed the perfect boat, that would be the end of my career as a yacht designer. My job, if I am to have a job, depends upon finding fault with my designs and improving them. Unfortunately, finding fault with Lely isn't easy. There are a few things that will be tweaked as we build her younger sisters but I won't say what they will be just yet. Lely is a tough act to follow.
Copyright 2006 Christopher R. White