Friday, September 25, 2009

Maine-bound, day 2: Through the gut of Long Island Sound

Awoke early in New Rochelle. Made a sincere attempt to find the harbormaster, but didn't see him; so as he suggested last night, I "forgot about" what I owed the fine city of New Rochelle for my transient slip, and put-putted out of the harbor.

A nicer day than yesterday: sunny and warm, with a promising breeze from the west. But as the day wore on it veered north, and then easterly, and pretty soon it was dead foul. So I put in to the mouth -- just behind the lips, really -- of Huntington Bay, and anchored west of Eaton's neck in 20 feet of water, just sheltered by the land. Not a real harbor at all, just a spot to stop for a few hours.

My depth gauge has been giving me funny unreliable info for a while, and I have speculated that maybe so much algae has grown on the bottom that the transducer is unable to get a signal out, or back, or whatever. So I stripped and put on the face mask and the fins and dropped the little rope swim ladder over the side and went down under the hull with a plastic Brillo pad to clean the transducer.

First time I've swum off the boat since I've owned it. I remember these waters well, from windsurfing here twenty years and one marriage ago. Warm -- soupy, even, in August -- and a little cloudy. My crewman-to-be, Ishmael, thinks this is because all the septic tanks and fertilized lawns of Long Island drain into the Sound and eutrophicate it, and the theory seems plausible. Also, of course, Huntington Bay is quite shallow and heats up nicely during the summer.

The algae theory abut the depth gauge had a lot to recommend it. The hull was shockingly overgrown. Isn't the poisonous bottom paint supposed to prevent this? Or is that just barnacles? The keel looked like one of those fur-hatted Hasidim in Williamsburg -- luxuriantly hirsute, trailing tendrils and fringes and skirts and lappets of sea-hair every which way.

I haven't been under water much, recently, and found I couldn't hold my breath for very long. But after half a dozen quick dives I had cleaned off the transducer pretty well. Time to get back into the boat.

This, it turns out, is not so easy. The swim ladder is not a rigid metal one; it's made from rope. And like an idiot, I've hung it off the bow, which falls away at a sharp inward angle. So as I try to climb the ladder, it swings inward toward the hull and away from me, and I'm hanging backwards like a tree sloth, trying to pull myself hand-over-hand up the rope like a kid in boot camp.

Which I am not.

After much ungraceful scrambling and the usual quantum of swearing, I made it back on deck, bone-tired as I always am these days after any modest exertion. Lay on the deck to dry off in the late afternoon sun and the mild warm breeze, which felt very nice indeed. Then boiled some eggs, and tried to go to sleep -- unsuccessfully, as the sequel will show.

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