We awoke on Sunday morning in a void.

Jenn was up at dawn and tried to take a photo of it. This may be out of focus. Or maybe the picture is in focus and everything else wasn’t.

The Void—Unfocused Fog with Dawn Coloration

I could barely tell where we were. I had to use the compass to determine which way we were pointing. Everything sounds wrong in fog, and the shore sounded awfully close. I checked the anchor. The rode was slack, despite a gentle breeze, but we must have just been balanced between the wind and current because we hadn’t moved.

Waking up in a blank void isn’t really that bad though. It may have actually been what we were looking for. Earlier in the week, Jenn had suggested that we go anchor out somewhere to get away from the noise and nonsense and other vibrations of the city. The weather forecast was agreeable, and she did the prep and packing. I left late on Friday, kind of unexpectedly. The thought of fighting the traffic out of the city on Saturday got to be overwhelming, and I think the act of fleeing gives me a sense of agency, so I set out on a high-speed burn through the night. I had to turn on the heat in my car when I emerged from the sprawl and neared the Pine Barrens. I wasn’t about to roll up the windows. Even through my dirty windshield, the stars were bright, as they are when the air is crisp.

When I got on the boat and started fiddling with the lock in the dark, I could hear that the bilge pump was running. I got in and investigated. The bilge was dry. I cycled the power and it turned off. My bilge pump doesn’t even have a “constant on” mode—it’s either off, momentarily on (which springs back to off when you let it go) or it defers to the float switch. I pulled the entire unit, flushed the switch with clean water, and put it back. It seemed to be staying off and it was rather late at that point, so I set up the bunk for sleep. I also put the crib boards back in and turned on the electric space heater. My telephone said that it was 43°F. The space heater is a tiny cube, like what an anemic coworker would put under their desk, and it outputs about as much heat as two laptop chargers, but I guess it takes the edge off. It wasn’t that bad once I got under the blankets.

Jenn arrived the next day. We loaded in and set out.

Sailing Upwind

It had warmed up quite a bit from the night before, to the point where I wished I’d packed short pants. The wind was about 10kts, gusting to 15, from the west and southwest, and which was about perfect. We were flying full sails, and could almost point high enough to get down the bay toward Myers Hole, but not quite. Jenn had the helm for much of it and did a good job of catching the lifts to keep us from having to tack a dozen times. We sailed as far as we could and then furled the jib and started the engine as we neared the entrance to the Oyster Creek Channel.

Channel Marker Being Pushed by Current

I knew that we’d be hitting the channel at the exact wrong time, near the peak of the flood, but we weren’t in a rush and the current isn’t so strong that we can’t motor against it. It was just a slow go. Eventually we rounded the corner and the full lighthouse came into view, with the inlet beside it and a clear path to the Atlantic.

Barnegat Lighthouse

There are two ways to get to Myers Hole from there: follow the buoys across the basin, toward the Coast Guard Station, and back around or just cut over the shoal, which I make at least 80% of the time without bumping. I was eyeing up the anchorage, trying to figure out how we’d fit in among the other boats as we approached the shallow area, and abruptly turned toward the beach. I didn’t want to be on top of another boat, and decided that we’d just tuck in along the shore and be alone. That section is a little less out of the way and subject to more boat wakes, but it’s still unusually deep (for here) close to land. We ran over the area and took note of the depth soundings, and anchored as close to shore as I thought we could get away with. I set the kellet to keep the rode off of the keel, we tidied up the mainsail, and commenced with relaxing.

Wispy Clouds at Dusk

I cooked dinner as the setting sun lit up wispy clouds.

More Richly-Colored Clouds after Sunset

We ate in the cockpit and lingered until it got dark. Venus appeared. Other celestial objects followed, including Jupiter and Saturn. The waning crescent moon wasn’t supposed to rise until 3:30am, and the resulting dark sky likely helped Jenn see a shooting star. It may have been an early Orionid, from the meteor shower that we get every October as Earth passes through the trail of debris left by Halley’s Comet. The air got cooler, and we eventually retired to the cabin and played some cribbage. We were so tired that Jenn started moving her pieces backward along the cribbage board and neither of us noticed until she got back to the start. I remarked that it was weirdly humid for how cool it was, and spent the next few hours tossing and turning in my bunk contemplating the word “clammy.” Does it mean that your skin feels like a clam? Or that you feel like you’re covered in clams? Either way: not great.

Around midnight, the bilge pump came on again. Again, there was no water in the bilge. I fumbled with it for a bit and then just turned it off. I guess there’s something deeply wrong with the float switch.

I’m not sure that either of us really slept that well. I often don’t at anchor. Jenn must have been up and about well before me since she took the photo of the dawn-tinged fog. By the time I got up, the colors were gone and everything beyond the boat looked like nothing in black and white.

The Void—Nothing Beyond the Boat

I suppose that the weird cool humidity pretty thoroughly clammed up the local atmosphere. It was some of the poorest visibility that I’ve seen (not seen?) from the boat. Fog has freaked me out ever since the delivery of Fortuitous, and is one of those things where you don’t even really know to be concerned until an invisible ship starts blasting its horn at you, potentially about to crush you like an acorn under a truck tire.

Fortunately, we didn’t have to go anywhere right away. We allowed the void to envelop us and made breakfast. There was a mix-up with the coffee packing and we wound up with whole beans, no grinder, and somehow also with the emergency stash of incredibly old, pre-ground, terrible doughnut store coffee. I considered putting the whole beans in a bag and hitting them with a winch handle in lieu of grinding, but was curious about the emergency coffee. Its grit size was really intended for a drip coffee maker, and in a French press, it came out with the consistency of over-watered potting soil. Of course, there’s a lot of leeway on a sailboat. At least for me—I think Jenn may have attempted some post hoc filtration by running a paper towel around in it, but I’m fine with a little high-solids cowboy coffee now and then.

The fog eased while we sipped. We could see the beachy shore near where we’d anchored and eventually the lighthouse. Jenn watched a pelican clumsily fish near the boat.

Pelecan

The fog didn’t clear all at once, or even steadily, but by late morning, it had been gone for long enough that we felt confident running the channel. The anchor came up easily, we raised the mainsail, and motored back toward the bay. Toward the end of the channel, it looked like we could sail, so we turned off the engine and set the jib. We then enjoyed a leisurely sail back toward the marina.

Winch, with Bay in Background

On the drive home, I wondered if my morning coffee, which was largely in the wrong state of matter, was still better than whatever they were slinging at the worst diner in the world. I shouldn’t really be surprised at this point, but the parking lot was full. To someone who hasn’t spent time there that, it probably seems implausible that the patrons are all the thralls of the Nosferatu Night Manager rather than just there for a delicious western omelet or whatever, but I nearly got shivved by Occam’s Razor in that place, and I assure you that the vampire theory is way easier to swallow than what they called a cheesesteak, which had the texture of a croissant filled with surgical gloves. Maybe it’s under new ownership or something, but usually the last thing a vampire wants to look for is new stakeholders.

Undead aside, we had a great weekend on the boat. Jenn wanted to get away from the hustle bustle of the city, and I think we accomplished that. I’m not sure that she wanted to take it all the way to a sensory deprivation fog, but I’m okay with an occasional blank void as long as I get to sail there.

More photos are available in the gallery, here.

"Prepare to fend off the bridge abutment."

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