After final preparations on Friday, YYZ was ready to depart New London for delivery to her home slip in Stamford. This would be a passage, both symbolic and corporeal, from her commissioning and sea trials to a new chapter in YYZ's history. The marine forecast called for 5-10 knots of wind coming from the southwest, a doubly boring combination for a route that is essentially due west at 270 degrees. Wind on the nose. Oh, and no wind.
But none of the crew minded. To a man, we were glad for the respite from the din of everyday life. At 0530, two hours before low tide at New London, her crew primed with hot coffee, YYZ departed the dock and slipped through the swing bridge to transit the harbor. We exited the harbor just as the sun was rising behind New London light house. It was a beautiful scene even though the glassy, flat water in the Sound indeed confirmed we would be motoring.
Thinking we should go south for any chance of sailing close to the wind, if there might be any wind, we headed for Race Rock, where immediately to the west the waters churn in an area about an eighth of a mile in size, suggesting a dangerously shallow shoal, even though the water there is actually 200 feet deep. Once we passed through the patch of white water, we made for the infamous Plum Island, the anecdotal home of secret government experiments on animals, still marked with forbidding signs that state "US Government Property - No Trespassing". Through new Steiner binoculars, we scanned for five-legged goats being tended by identically besuited men wearing dark sunglasses and radio earpieces, but we didn't see any of either species.
It was time to put YYZ on the rhumb line to the Stamford port-hand red marker number 32, known as the "Cows", for the herd of cattle-sized rocks that have sunk many boats with bovine obstinacy. After a hearty hot breakfast, consisting of un-toasted toast (buttered) and scrambled eggs with expertly sautéed mushrooms and tomatoes, we all took turns on the helm, ran the autopilot, tested its different modes, and played with the navigation electronics, learning about the various chart presentation options, including how to overlay AIS and radar information. We could see information about all sorts of vessels in our area, including the "John H" SeaJet ferry, the "Brendan Turecamo" tug, the "Captain Willie Landers" tug, a few tankers, fishing trawlers, and various pleasure craft.
However, not even these fancy electronics can substitute for a keen watch, which was essential for avoiding the flotsam deposited into the Sound by spring rains. At times, it was a veritable obstacle course populated by obstructive sticks, stumps, logs, huge clumps we named "bush bergs", and whole trees! At times, we would be caught in a maze of debris and had to snake our way out. The crew did a marvelous job protecting YYZ's virginal hull from any unwanted contact. We thought we saw a "ki" of cocaine, which enhanced our fantasy of high jinx on the high seas, but it was just white styrofoam.
After several hours, the wind started to tease us with a freshening breeze of 10-15 knots, so we unfurled and raised the sails, and watched the wind promptly die as we made less than two knots of boat speed. It was a good time for lunch, along with a little offering of rum to the weather gods. After a delicious spread easily accommodated by the large cockpit table, washed down with some Captain Morgan's spicy dark rum, we returned to our mating dance with the weather. We tacked a few times, and actually managed to go backwards on our track, but that afforded us another photo opportunity to pass within two hundred feet to the east of Stratford Shoal light.
Heading once again on a course of 270 degrees, we saw weather off in the distance and correctly anticipated a more steady and strong breeze. The vessel started to heel at eight degrees and suddenly we were hurtling along and heeling at thirty degrees. It was certainly time to put a reef in the mainsail and we might as well do that while hove to, all of which we did rather handily.
Now we were really making our way to our waypoint. It was getting dark and chilly as a weather system passed over us, but by now the four stacks at Northport had lined up, indicating one hour to the Cows. Before we reached the Cows, we rolled up the genoa and did a precautionary check to make sure our engine would start. After heeling at such an angle and this being a new boat, we wanted to be extra careful and not enter a harbor to the rude surprise that we had no engine.
She started up and we motor sailed through the breakwater and into Stamford's outer harbor. It was time to get the fenders and dock lines ready for a port side tie up, but not before doing an admittedly unscheduled man overboard recovery drill, with one of the fenders. It cost us about half an hour, but was useful hands on training, giving us a sense of how to maneuver the vessel and work together to get the "victim" back aboard.
Taking the east branch of the inner harbor and passing through the hurricane barrier, we were greeted at our slip by a lovely maiden, accompanied by a snow white Maltese, both clearly of royal lineage, and offered the finest golden champagne, marking the occasion of YYZ's successful arrival to her home port. A tear may have been shed.
Many thanks to the wonderful reunion of crew who were the perfect complement to YYZ.