Every weekend has been an endless loop of “hot, humid, and probably thunderstorms” with an occasional side dish of “dense smoke from western wildfires.” We finally decided to give up on the idea of waiting until the weekend. The forecast for Friday was clear skies, 75°F, 10kts of breeze, and a weirdly comfortable dew point of 55°F. There was no way that I could work through that.
Jenn and I both took off on Friday with a vague plan to sail somewhere different. My first thought was Beach Haven, but the Beach Haven Yacht Club had no transient slips available. I’m glad I checked, because I wouldn’t have known of a reasonable place to anchor down there. The wind was largely neutral, so we decided to instead sail in the opposite direction, north, and anchor out in Silver Bay.
We didn’t rush to the shore, and stopped several times along the way for provisions. Jenn wound up having to deal with some work things on the car ride there, but that all got resolved before we arrived. Despite it being late in July, we still hadn’t done some basic things like filling the water tank or bringing down the stove, so we took care of those too. I also did a thorough systems check following the grounding in our previous (unscripted) adventure. There was some salad in the sea strainer, which I removed, but other than that, everything looked fine. We casted off lines around 2:30pm and set out. The weather was better than expected.
It is traditionally considered bad luck to start a trip on a Friday, the Dies Infaustus (unlucky day). Fridays occur pretty frequently though, and this has always struck me as a convenient way to potentially get another day of shore leave in a more superstitious time, much like it is “unlucky” to do a software deployment on a Friday or for more than one person in a ten-person road crew to be working simultaneously. If I’m correct that the real goal was to leave yourself an option for a little more “me time,” then as a recreational sailor with a Monday-Friday work week, I maintain that in my case, it is good luck to sail on a Friday. Not that I really believe in supernatural luck, but sometimes it’s convenient to lapse into thinking of things like that old degenerate gambler, Blaise Pascal.
Things seemed to be going our way though. There were few boats out. The wind was light, but enough to keep us moving and on the beam for much of the sail toward Good Luck Point. The deep water narrows there and it’s important to follow the channel. I wasn’t sure if we’d be able to sail high enough to get around the point, but as we approached Marker 38, the wind shifted in our favor and we were able to make the turn with barely any retrimming required. I spoke to the osprey at Marker 36.
We then came downwind as we turned around the point and our speed dropped to about a knot, so we furled the jib and started the engine. We needed to be under power to deal with the drawbridge anyway, so it wasn’t that disappointing. I contacted them on Channel 13 and arranged for the opening, which are only done on the hour and half hour this time of year.
Jenn had never been through a drawbridge before, and I still get unnecessarily giddy about stopping all those cars on their way to Seaside with a polite “Pardon me, yacht coming through.” As we got closer, I idled the engine and we gently sailed there under just the main so that I could approach with steerage and wouldn’t have to kill much time bobbing directly next to it. The bridge then requested that we drop the main, so we did. I didn’t recall this requirement, and my preference would have been to motor through with the main up, just in case, but I didn’t argue it. We timed it fairly well and never technically had to stop, although we were definitely creeping at times. We continued through the open span without issue.
A large wooden motor yacht with an exceptionally tall mast (for a powerboat) followed us through. My radio communications are stilted, but perhaps not the most technically correct. M/V Barnegat was far more precise in her discussions with the bridge, and there was a lot of discussion. I don’t know why they got the third degree, but they had to describe their air draft and reiterate their name several times, as if it was all going down on their permanent record. When I was clear, I radioed “Thank you, Bridge.” They radioed “Mathis Bridge, this is Barnegat, all clear. Barnegat standing by on one-six and one-three.” They passed us immediately after transiting the bridge.
Jenn asked if it was a motor sailor, and while I don’t know anything about power boats, much less old wooden ones, that in no way stopped me from theorizing that the mast was primarily to act a crane to get their dinghy way the hell up on the roof of their flying bridge (or whatever that is). I also said that I’ve heard of boats like that being able to carry a tiny little vestigial sail, but that it would likely only be for emergency use, or as an affectation, in the same way that most pimps don’t actually require canes for mobility. I actually found a photo of her (I think) on The WoodenBoat Forum [sic] from 2010 flying a small sail although in that photo she’s got a different burgee up. I recognized the current burgee as the Bay Head Yacht Club, which is the type of yacht club that has a dress code so elaborate that it contains proscriptions for forms of attire that I’ve never heard of. I know what blue denim is (although it is forbidden in all areas at all times) but I suppose that I wouldn’t have to worry about wearing my tennis whites after 9:00pm since I have no idea what “tennis whites” are.
We considered putting our sails back up, but it would have been an awkward main hoist with the wind behind us, and I wasn’t eager to point into the wind or do anything too elaborate in these unfamiliar waters. It had been a long time since I’d been north of the Mathis Bridge, and I’ve already gotten my money’s worth out of my towing insurance this season. So we continued on to Silver Bay under power. Jenn read the paper charts and I occasionally verified our position with my telephone as we wound through the channel.
We made sure to go the long way into Silver Bay to avoid the underwater point that sticks out from the southern end of the entrance and then cruised toward the cove in Cattus Island County Park. The charts make it look shallow, but I know I’ve anchored pretty far back in there before. Avid readers (reader?) may recall the name Cattus Island from the old, old days on Fortuitous I and the Cattus Island Beat Down, which was the first time a sailboat made me think “Oh well, at least this will be a rad obituary.” I apparently wasn’t as verbose in those days, or maybe was too embarrassed to admit that I needed to request my brown trousers, but it was certainly a watershed moment in my sailing career. This weekend was far more pleasant.
There were already some boats in the cove, which initially made me nervous because at least one of them was blasting music. I turned to Jenn and said “Eh, Dexys Midnight Runners. It could be worse?” just as they skipped to some generic modern pop music that sounded like the sample song on a mid-level Casio plus someone’s first experiment with Auto-Tune. But a second glance made me believe that none of those boats would be staying the night. We anchored without drama just inside the cove and commenced with the relaxing.
As the boats trickled out one at a time, I made dinner. We still haven’t figured out what we’d both like to eat on the boat. For some reason, I think what I really want (other than not preparing at all) would be hardtack and a can of something that couldn’t legally be labeled as “cheese” (which is, incidentally, what my brother got me for my last birthday). While Jenn’s tastes are not overly fancy, I think she still thinks in land terms, where there is virtually unlimited storage space, refrigeration, and cooking BTUs. We arrived at an accommodation, which we gussied up by calling chien chaud avec pommes de terre de cannes. I’m not that good at either cooking or French, and I don’t know the word for “canned” in French at all, but I assume that the film festival must have something to do with canned potatoes/earth apples. We also had salad, but that is entirely uninteresting in French because I think it’s still “salad,” just spelled with extraneous letters. We finished dinner in time to see the sun go down.
By then, we were the only boat in the cove, although there were a few boats anchored out (or drifting) in the main part of Silver Bay. They may have been waiting to see fireworks, which we could also see most of. We could actually see several displays. They looked amateur, but big amateur. I’m not sure why there were any, since there wasn’t any particular occasion that we could think of, but I guess this is a thing now. I was far more interested in the sky.
Eventually, the pinks and purples faded and gave way to night. The planet Venus appeared, and the full moon started to rise to the southeast. Jenn determined that this is called the Thunder Moon, a.k.a. the Buck Moon, the Hay Moon, Guru Purnima, Asalha Puha, or other names, depending on the tradition. Clouds had rolled in a bit and we weren’t able to see it in its entirety above the trees, but it was incredibly bright and shed quite a bit of moonglow onto the edges of the clouds. My telephone couldn’t adequately capture it, but it tried.
The moon technically became completely full at 10:37pm local time. It was joined by Jupiter and Saturn, meaning that we’d seen a total of four planets that day. I used the “night mode” on my telephone to try to photograph it, but it’s an odd effect and wound up looking like a poor facsimile of daylight. In reality, it was definitely night, but this mode accentuated the planets. Hopefully this gives some impression.
We eventually retired to the cabin and played some cribbage, which is a game with a lot of nautical history and always feels appropriate to play on a boat. I think it was taught to me by my grandmother’s brother-in-law, who learned it after joining the Merchant Marine at age 15 or so, back when simply declaring that you were 18 was proof enough. I remembered most of the rules and Jenn knew none of the rules, but I still was unable to use this to my advantage and narrowly lost. I also realized at like 3:00am that I had staged this photo incorrectly and should have put the Jack in the hand and made the 5 of Spades the turn card, but whatever. A 28 is still good.
I was up at 3:00am because, as usual when at anchor, I didn’t sleep that well. I sleep, but it’s not continuous. I wake up for every odd noise, every unexpected boat motion, every vague sense that we’ve spun around in a weird way, or apparently to try to figure out the best cribbage hands. Mostly I just go back to sleep, although sometimes I actually get up and roam around the boat to check on the anchor rode, look at the weather, or make sure that everything is going as expected. I definitely slept through the dawn, when Jenn took this photo.
When I did wake up, I started coffee and Jenn had some breakfast. I don’t usually eat much breakfast, but I was intrigued by a cup of instant ramen of dubious vintage that I’d found stashed in an odd cupboard. I couldn’t get rid of the nagging thought of “Could I eat this?” so I threw some extra water in the kettle to boil. I wasn’t really worried about the noodles per se, but Maruchan Instant Lunches have a few pieces of freeze-dried veggies and some meat-colored Lucky Charms sitting on top of the noodle brick. Despite the plastic wrap being in order, the Lucky Charms were looking a little worse for wear—sort of dark and crystalline in a more unnatural way than I remembered them. Emboldened by having made it through the Dies Infaustus unscathed (and after a quick confirmation of the toilet paper situation) I figured that luck was on my side, so I brewed them up and downed them. They were exactly the same as every other cup of instant ramen that I’ve ever had. I am now inspired to hide more so that I can have this experience again in 2026.
We didn’t dawdle too much in the cove, and the cleanup from breakfast transitioned directly into preparing the boat for the trip back. There had been a slight threat of rain starting in the early afternoon, so we wanted to get going. Jenn suggested that maybe there would be less traffic at the bridge if we left early, and by that point, there were already a number of jetskis driving into and then out of the cove, as if performing a one-dimensional grid search for their own sense.
The anchor was filthy and made a mess of the deck, but it came up without too much difficulty. We bid adieu to Cattus Island.
The wind was favorable to sailing, but we left the sails down, expecting to be told again by the bridge that we’d have to douse them. I don’t really like motoring with the main down, because even when under power, the main has a stabilizing effect on the boat motion. And we really could have used it. There was a nonstop line of powerboats going the same direction as us, following the same path, with the grace and momentum of an amphetamine-fueled conga line. They were passing us on both sides, tossing up wakes of constructive interference that were knocking us all over the place. Once we were in it, it was too late to do anything about it. We were mostly just trying to hang on, and on that side of the bridge I didn’t know of any deep water where we could get out of the channel and safely set a sail.
The amount of traffic was truly crazy. I’d never seen anything like it, even on the high holidays of summer. As we approached the bridge, I contacted them on the VHF to request an opening. They didn’t respond to my first request, and on the second, they said they could barely hear me. I don’t know if it was bad mic technique or the wind or what. I never really got confirmation that they’d open the bridge, but we continued on. I drifted the last thousand feet under bare poles, being slowly nudged toward the bridge, as dozens of powerboats buzzed around us. I had timed it pretty much exactly, but when we arrived at the opening, we still hadn’t heard the bells to indicate that the gates were coming down. I had to use reverse to stay away from it, which is an imprecise activity under ideal circumstances, and at that point I was kind of blocking the main span, which made the powerboats apoplectic with rage. At four minutes after the scheduled opening, I called again on the radio and asked to confirm that they’d received my request, thinking that if I’d somehow missed this one, I’d just bail out entirely and wait elsewhere for the next one. The operator impatiently told me that he was working on it, so I continued to maintain my position as best as I could. As if it weren’t chaotic enough, a large center console pulled up with someone impersonating the loser of the last presidential election on the bow, shouting bullshit through a bullhorn. I stared at the opening of the bridge, attempting to will it open with the power of my irritation.
It eventually opened. On the other side, it was much the same: an endless parade of powerboats, all going the same way, making noise, kicking up wakes, clawing their own faces off to get around me, dragging jetskis and tubes and at least one inflatable llama. I couldn’t leave the channel, which made it feel like I was unwillingly running with the bulls in Pamplona. I began to doubt my own observations, wondering if I was just rapidly falling into the “Old Man Yells at Cloud” stage of life or if there was truly an abnormal amount of jackassery abounding, but would later find out that these boats were all headed to “Floatchella” at Tices Shoal. Let’s say that the ordinary amount of frat party energy at Tices Shoal was represented by a Twinkie. At Floatchella, it would be a Twinkie 35ft long, weighing approximately 600 pounds. I was not imagining it.
We motored all the way around Good Luck Point before we could get far enough away from the stampede to put up a sail. By that point, we were in a wider part of the bay, and had room to deviate from the channel. Turning off the engine was like jumping into a pool on a hot day. It was suddenly quiet. Calm. An oddly exhilarating refreshment. The rest of the sail back was recuperative, and better matched the tone of the rest of the trip.
And I know why you’re really here…
Diner Update: On Friday, the diner parking lot was not full beyond capacity, but it was probably 8/10 busy, which is still shocking for a diner that has historically been so abysmal. Saturday was only about a 6/10 busy, which makes even less sense since we were driving by in the middle of the typical work day on Friday. Perhaps most of their potential weekend patrons were at Floatchella. I don’t know what vampire rules govern the activities of the maitre d’, but it’s possible that he is averse to sunlight and needs to chill in a coffin during the day or spend his time as an inert mist. That would likely improve the overall vibe of the place but would do nothing for the matzoh ball soup.
But regarding the sailing, we had an excellent weekend on Fortuitous. It has been somewhat difficult for me to get going this year. I don’t know why. I was kind of looking for excuses not to go even while in the process of going, but Jenn dealt with me and I pushed through, and it seems to have been worth it. The weather was perfect and it was nice to have the flexibility to take advantage of it. The boat performed well, anchoring alone in an undeveloped corner of the bay was refreshing, and Jenn has become good crew. Remembering the Cattus Island Beat Down, and returning to Silver Bay under better circumstances (despite having almost been run over by a circus train of giddy, lusty ignorance on the way home) gives me perspective on how far I’ve come as a sailor.
There are more photos in the gallery here: Silver Bay Gallery