Sunday, June 29, 2014 (Cape May to Atlantic City): As I mentioned earlier we were anxious to leave Utsch's. As soon as I was sure we wouldn't suck the bottom muck into our intakes we skedaddled at 07:30. Navigating Utsch's meager channel was as much fun going out as coming in. Thank G_d for the joystick. Getting 47 feet around a narrow 90-degree turn leaves paper thickness between corners and unfriendly pilings. The right angle turn at the end of Utsch's channel is less challenging because the main channel, though somewhat narrowed by low tide is wide enough to turn comfortably. Moreover, this tide exposes the bars on either side of the channel.
The weather forecast is good for the hour and a half run up to Atlantic City. The harbor in front of the Coast Guard station is calm. The channel going out into the Atlantic is disturbed only by long period ocean swells and ripples in a light breeze. Exiting the breakwaters we find that the swells are about four feet but the period is more than ten seconds. Though from the southeast, they catch us on the starboard quarter; we hardly feel them. There is a haze on the water and plenty of fishing boats moving. We choose to stand out to sea about five miles. That makes cross traffic less burdensome. At this early hour all the cross traffic is coming from the left through our red zone, which means that they are burdened to cross behind us. Do they know from "red zones" and "burdened?" Hardly! We subscribe to the rule of relative tonnage. Out there if we are bigger, "try me." If I am smaller, "have it your way!" Even though we have stood out even further we still get angry calls that we are creating too much wake. We leave four plus feet of surf behind us. We stayed silent and moseyed on at 30 knots leaving our four-foot surf. Out in the open it is doubtful that we would be responsible for our wake unless we were the burdened boat and swamped another boat close aboard.
The tall buildings of Atlantic City come into view only a few miles out of Cape May. The most noticeable is the white dome on top of the Revel. Once clear of traffic I set Blackthorne directly at the Revel and enjoy breakfast and the morning news, which is all about Arthur, the first bad storm of hurricane season. It is still forming off the coast of Florida and "dorissing" about not certain where the steering currents are. We notice that the Gulf Stream water is warm for the time of year and that's not favorable for us. If Arthur remains a tropical storm landfall will get flooding rain and tolerable wind. If the storm gets into the faster moving steering currents we will get less rain but potentially damaging winds.
Enroute, I call Liberty Landing in New York (actually Jersey City, NJ) to see if they have had cancellations for the Fourth of July weekend because of Arthur. No such luck! Sometimes events happen for the best. It did turn out that Arthur visited on the Fourth! We stopped at Liberty Landing later on the southward leg of our cruise. I brought up the subject of having been rudely turned away a week in advance of the storm. Contritely, the dockmaster admitted that more than half of their slips stayed empty due to the storm and broken reservations. Furthermore, we were returning visitors having stayed there on earlier trips. They admitted that they should have given us consideration. We received a nice discount!
Eight miles out of Atlantic City the entire skyline of the city is in view. The approach to Absecon Inlet reveals how abandoned looking the Boardwalk appears. All of the casinos on the Boardwalk are either closed or closing. The only ones remaining with any traffic are the Golden Nugget, Harrah's, and the Borgata but they are west of the city center on the river. We idle into the enclosed Farley Atlantic City Marina just feet from the seawall on the left but far enough away not to snag fishing lines. We head straight for the fuel dock as I would prefer to have a full load before the storm. If it turns out to be a bad one fuel may not be available or barely available at an exorbitant price. There we meet two lawyers, a husband and wife team, who act as crew for a wealthy owner, having abandoned reading the law. Later we have drinks with them aboard their beautifully appointed 70-foot slow mover. They are on their way south because their boat, though for sale, is being offered as a donation to the Merchant Marine Academy.
Staying at the "Nuggie" has its perquisites. First is the marina service, tip-top and not pricey. We are birthed in the shade of Boardwalk, Tillman Fertitta's 164-foot Westport megayacht. Her crew of 13 is busy polishing her up. Evidently, she is relocating for a while as soon as Arthur passes. Fertitta owns the Golden Nugget Casinos and Landry's, a chain of restaurants. Getting the run of the property is another major perk of the place. Slipholders are treated like every other guest with access to the restaurants, casinos, shows, the pool deck, et cetera. Above, ducks examine our power cord while the crew of Boardwalk scrubs. Photography is not permitted inside the casino because casinos seem to be under the protection of HIPAA rules. I have not verified that statement made by one of the casino watchers. Nevertheless, out of an abundance of caution I have blurred out faces. What struck us about casino life is the abundance of people of retirement age along with the apparent lack of concern with time of day, or anything else other than flashing lights, bells, and whistles. The thousand-yard stare was also a common expression.
After lunch on the pool deck, we take the jitney into town for a stroll along the Boardwalk. The grand hotels and casinos are either dead or closed for good, tee-shirt curio shops replacing entrances. There are people milling about, mostly interested in the beach and the surf. We want to look around before Arthur puts in his appearance.
The frontal bands of Arthur are due to start disturbing our weather in the next day or so. The storm is predicted to strengthen to a category I hurricane by nightfall with winds topping 64 knots. It is slow moving and predicted to hit Beaufort, NC, and Cape Hatteras a glancing blow. We decide to have supper aboard and spend a little time tying things down. We can't believe the weather will turn because the day has been magnificent. I have spent all afternoon on the pool deck of the hotel writing on my latest project, which will become a novel later this year, then watching World Cup soccer on the big screen at the bar. Edie has spent the day reading and ogling the beautiful people. Of course, the serving girls are chosen to work the pool deck because of their youthful pulchritude and confidence wearing as little as possible without being downright bawdy.
The sunset before the storm is spectacular. We can't actually see the horizon because of all the tall buildings around us but the reflections make it. There is a heavy mist in the air due to the storm sucking up humidity from the warm Gulf of Mexico. After supper of grilled hamburger and veg, I add lines and double-loop pilings in case we get a substantial surge. Everything that can become a wind-driven missile is stowed and the dinghy is lashed down.
Other boat owners around us are doing the same. On the hotel verandah nothing is out of the ordinary. The music is blaring and the booze flows. even though we are five slips away from the noise, we can't hear them when we close up the hatches. The signs of an impending weather disturbance are un mistakable. As night false the humidity is oppressive; the air tastes wet! Mist envelops the Borgata and The Water Club behind us. The PA system announces cancellation of the annual fireworks display in honor of The Fourth. Dining in one of the 5-star restaurants on the premises consoles us.
We retire at sailors' midnight. At 02:30, I awaken, conscious of Sequel hitting the lines. I open the hatch and see Old Glory standing straight out from the mast. To the west, the sky is clear but to seaward a heavy bank of low scud looks wind-whipped. I can't tell the wind direction except that it is pushing off the tops of the clouds toward the north. I go out on deck to check our lines. The wind is coming in wet gusts from the southeast. Sequel is lying well.
I retire once again but awaken around 05:00 to rain lashing the deck above. Arthur has arrived. The wind is steady around 40 knots according to NOAA radio. Seas are running 25 feet 20 miles offshore. The harbor is flat and the wind is slamming us against our lines but we have enough lines to the dock that we feel only the occasional bump. NOAA says that Arthur came ashore briefly south of Beaufort, NC, as a cat II hurricane with 90 knots sustained winds and turned seaward, as predicted leaving little damage in his wake. I make coffee and by this time the Admiral is awake wanting to know what is going on. We have our coffee on the helm deck and watch the storm. It is spectacular. The rain is horizontal and comes in torrents. Hotel staff is having a futile fight with the awnings over the verandah bar. Chairs are skittering across the deck, tables and bottom-weighted umbrellas are toppling like tenpins. The frenetic scrambling has all the earmarks of a silent Charlie Chaplin film.
The rain and wind are relentless until midmorning. The clouds break and the temperature drops. We lunch indoors. By that time Arthur seems to have dissipated into occasional squalls. The wind has dropped and the temperature is falling. By the time we emerge from lunch the sun is trying to put in an appearance. We change clothes and repair to the pool deck. None of the denizens have emerged. The servers are standing about waiting for something to do. The temperature is getting chilly. The flags tell us that the wind has swung around to the northwest. I settle on a beer to go with my laptop. The Fourth has brought out the crowds but the concierge tells us that about half of the rooms cancelled out because of the storm. We go back aboard to make Friday night supper. The afterdeck is quite pleasant for sipping tea and watching the people around us trying to get The Fourth going. Then, around 21:00 fireworks erupt from the town. Evidently, they didn't get the memo.
Saturday, July 5th is clear and breezy. By 11:00 the morning chill has given way to pleasant 70s. We walk through the scupture garden to the Borgata and back to Harrah's. We stroll through the casino, which seems quite unpopulated and note a restaurant with a creative veg menu for lunch.
As we walk along the Absecon River viewing the many works of art on one side and the estuary on the other, we note that the water looks angry and black. It isn't rough. Nevertheless, the tops are coming off the whitecaps in the gusts. We would like to leave tomorrow and make for Glen Cove on Long Island Sound. We will make the call at daybreak. Arthur is now a fast mover out into the North Atlantic.
To pass the evening we take in entertainment in the Showroom at the Golden Nugget by Gordie Brown who does comedy and impressions.