Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Cliffwood Beach and Sea Gull Island

While sailing on the bay many of us have seen the small island protrude from the water near Cliffwood Beach.  This little island is not an island, but a reef.  The name came from seeing Gulls always sitting there when the tide came down enough to give them a dry spot to sit.  For years this was one of the places where Captain Kidd was thought to have hid his treasure or at least stopped there and carried it in to hide in Treasure Lake.  These are just some of the tales that give the Bay some interest and excitement.  During the past several years we had gotten as close as we could and tried to investigate this small island but getting out in three feet of water and walking through that slimmy mud was a real negative.  This year was the year we were actually stuck there. Yes, I mean stuck, what level headed person would take their sailboat into the shallows of Cliffwood Beach?  Yes, I am that individual.  It was a higher than normal high tide and we came closer to shore slowly with an eye on the depth finder.  There was four feet of water under the boat and that gave us a little more than a foot of clearance.  I knew there were old pilings along the old waterfront and made an effort to not go so close to them as I didn't want to find the one pointed piling hidden under the water.  We dropped the sails and started up the motor so we could react faster if needed.  Cruising a about 2 to 3 knots we came to Sea Gull Island on our port side.  This means we are between the shore and Sea Gull Island headed East which is known for shallows and old pilings.  The tide was so high that the island was under water this day and there appeared to be rapids atop the island.  We did get a little too close and got stuck in the mass of rock that makes up the reef.  The depth finder went from four feet to zero feet in the blink of an eye.  With the moving tide we knew we could not wait to try to drift off, I turned to starboard and gassed the engine in reverse which pulled us back until we were stopped by more rock.  Back and forth we went and finally backed us off of the reef.  I wasn't worried about any damage as we did not hit anything too hard.  But I was really glad to get off it.  A powerboat of weekend warriors came flying by pointing and laughing.  I guess we deserved it.  I now knew that this wasn't a sand pile or mud pile, but a rock and it goes much further than what you can see on the surface.  If you look at the picture below you can see rocks coming out of the water a good ways away from this obstruction.

 This area is littered with rocky outcrops with most below the water.  Keeping a good distance between this reef is a good idea.  In fact, make sure you stay on the North side of it as the water depth is not deep enough for a keeled boat during normal tides.

This picture was taken from Cliffwood Beach shore. You can just look out an imagine how shallow this water is.

To think this was once an exciting boardwalk with thousands of people visiting each year.  Cliffwood Beach had a great boardwalk, large swimming pool, a few simple amusement rides, places to eat, beach cabanas, and the area inland was filled with small cottages.  Back in the 40's and 50's the bay was very polluted and only a brave few would swim in the wicked water.  This was why they built a large pool along the bay.    In 1960 Hurricane Donna destroyed the entire boardwalk area and the only thing remaining today is many pilings sticking out of the sand or mud and the remains of the swimming pool can still be found.

But why didn't Cliffwood Beach rebuild this great tourist area.  Just a glance tells you this was the place to go in the 40's and 50's. There has been almost nothing done since the hurricane in 1960. Yes they have put in a few walking trails along the bay, but there is nothing going on from a town level to induce more tourism.

Maybe one day we will see the bay shore developed, but for now it is void of construction or attractions.  The walkway along the bay is a nice place to take a walk, but this is about all that Aberdeen and Cliffwood Beach offer today.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Raritan Bay Report

It was the first full week of November before we could check out the damage in Keyport.  I decided to take a ride and drop a check off for the past seasons mooring.  As I drove down to Keyport, there was little to tell you we had recently been hit by a Mega Storm. However, once I made it to the route 35 draw bridge it was a totally different picture.  Viking Marina was in shambles and as you looked out into the bay it was littered with the half sunken boats all over the place.  The railroad had come in with a crane to pick boats up and move them from the train tracks.  I continued down 35 until I got to my turnoff for Keyport.   As soon as I got on Amboy Road I didn't even travel a half mile before seeing boats littering the sides of the road.  The closer one got to Keyport the more pronounced the boat damage was.  They were stuck on the bridge, laying in the weeds, swamped out in the channel, lying along the road where they had been pushed to clear the road, stuck on or in buildings, and upside down in parking lots. 

The closer you got to the marinas, the worse the the damage was.  By now many of the boats which were close to the marinas were gathered up and placed on blocks or racks.   Many will require a crane to pick them up and place them on trailers to return to the marinas.  As you peer down the roadway you see more damage and more boats.

The Blue Rock Cafe took a betting from boats piled up in front and behind.  I know this catamaran and it is usually park next door in the back, but it made it all the way around front to land on the steps of the Blue Rock.  The sides of the roadway were nothing but mud and puddles of water.  

 Here is another boat that had been pushed from the roadway and the stern drive does not look too good.  

This was another view of the Blue Rock Cafe.  This boat seems to have brought it's dock with it.

Now the picture that gets me the most is the following picture with boats still stuck on the bridge framework.  This would mean that the water was high enough to float these to the point they are and when the water reseeded, it left them stock on the framework.
As we went through the downtown all seemed fine, but as soon as you made the left to head down to the boat ramp you realized you were back in a war zone again. We worked our way to Olsen's Boat Yard which is next door to Keyport Yacht Club.  As we pulled in it looked somewhat normal, but once we drove in to the ramp area we noticed the pile of boats that had been piled up from the storm. This is where my boat would have been stored if I had not taken her home.  This pile of boats stopped the wave action from getting to the other boats sitting in their cradles or on blocks.  
These were boats that have not been in the water for some time and took the blunt of the waves and wind. There will be more room at the yard once these damaged boats are broken up and placed in a dumpster.

When you look around there were small pockets  of boats piled here and there.  Some damaged, some just off their cradle or trailer.
 It will take time to get this area back to normal.  There will be lots of boats headed for the dumps.  The biggest point of this storm is the number of people killed was held to a minimum.  May have no homes along our shoreline and many are in the process of rebuilding, but they are here to talk about it.

In closing of this blog entry I leave you with the following picture.m Be sure to note the name on the back.
Until next entry, be safe.

Hurricane Sandy comes to Raritan Bay

It was October 24th and the weather channel and the BoatUS hurricane warning system were calling for a very strange weather condition to happen in New Jersey.  A hurricane and Northeaster were going to converge on New Jersey.  The crazy thing was the storm was going to hang a hard turn to the west and crash into New Jersey.  Many thought this could never happen as it has not before, myself included.  As it got later in the week, the worse fears were still on the table and they were calling for a very bad situation for those who reside in the great Garden State.  It was October 27th and I went down to Keyport to get my boat out of there.  I have left her there before and she was well taken care of by John Olsen (Harbor Master and boat yard owner), but this time I wasn't taking any chances plus I was leaving for Korea on Sunday morning.  As usual, she was all ready for me to tie down and secure a few things before towing her home, but that went about as easy as you could imagine.  Once home she was placed in her winter retirement area where she could easily be worked on over the winter.  All went fine, I left for Korea on Sunday morning and arrived there 22 hours later.  Knowing of the impending storm, I called home to check on my wife who was home alone.  I had set up the generator, ran extension cords, bought batteries and flash lights, left her a bag of luminary candles, stocked up with food and water, and then spoke to the neighbors to watch over her while I was away.  When my call finally went through she advised that it was just a little windy and all was okay at that point and she would be fine.  It was about 11:00pm in Korea and 10:00am in New Jersey on October 29th.  I went out and had the meetings at the Korean factories and when I returned later that night I thought I would check on her.  I could not get through, I tried her cell phone, I could not get through, I tried facebook, I could not get anyone,  I was very concerned at this point.  I turned on the TV to CNN and was blown away by the news about this MEGA STORM that had crashed into New Jersey.  For the next couple days I tried and tried to communicate but without success.  This made me sick.  We had been flooded by hurricane Irene and this was suppose to be much worse.  Was my home still there, is my wife okay?  I carried my IPAD and kept checking the the news until I finally got my daughter who told me she had spoken to one of the neighbors and that everything was okay at home, but there was no power, telephone, cell phone, or gasoline.  Well, this made me feel somewhat better, but to think of your wife sitting at home trying to take care of everything when she was so accustomed to have me do it for her still had me worried

Thursday, November 1st finally came and it was time to head home.  We had a non stop flight from Seoul to San Francisco leaving in the afternoon.  Everything went fine but we were worried if we would be able to get the next leg of our flight into Newark.  We talked about what we could do if Newark was still closed and that would be to fly as close to New Jersey as possible and then rent a car and drive the rest of the way. Went we got to the United Club they informed us the flights were on time to Newark as there were not many planes there and the airport wanted to get the traffic moving again.  Thank goodness!

The flight was another long one and I worried and thought about what I would do when I got home.  We arrived about 11:30pm in Newark and moved as quick as we could to get our luggage and get to our car.  When we flew in there didn't seem to be too much problem with power being out as there were lights all over the place from the air.  When we drove out of the airport and got onto route 22 hoping to also get some gas, we ran into a big surprise.  There was no power which means no gas.  We came upon a couple gas stations, but the lines were about a mile long. We decided to keep going.  When you take away the power and lighting the areas that look familiar are now strange and erie looking.  I found it hard trying to figure out where we were and these were areas I knew.  We ran into detours and road blocks once we turned off of the highway and a simple 10 minute trip now took 20 plus minutes.

I arrived home around 1:15am on Friday morning the 2nd of November.  My wife was in bed sleeping under two down quilts.  The house was about 62 degrees and the generator was running keeping the food cold and one light in the kitchen on for me.  I was exhausted at this point and gave her a kiss letting her know I was home safe and she awoke to tell me about the storm.     The neighbors had been very helpful in keeping the generator running, going out to buy her gas, and checking in on her.  Good thing I had her take money out of the bank before the storm hit.  I sat on the bed and listened to all the things that had happened and finally got under the covers and went to sleep.

The next morning I got up and took a walk around our small one square mile town to see what had happened.  I was shocked by the trees and telephone poles that were down.  Power cables and wires are down all over the place.  Nobody has power and you hear the roar of generators running all over.  People were caring for their neighbors and running extension cords to the neighbors to help save the food in their refridgerator and freezers.  There was a sense of people pulling together to get through this disaster.  There little one could do, but wait for power and the streets to be made passable.

The storm brought with it damage like never seen before.  But once we had a chance to get out of the house we drove to Bethlehem Pennsylvania to get gasoline for my truck and containers for the generator.  I setup the television that afternoon so we could watch DVDs, I used the stove to heat the house, picked up all the branches in the yard, and recovered the boat in the backyard.

It was now time to check on my friends and summer hangout Keyport.