In the pre-dawn darkness, I am perched precariously over the bow pulpit. With a flashlight in one hand and the deck wash hose in the other, I spray the mud from the chain rode and anchor as it is being retracted by the windlass. Not the normal tidy outcome, but a valiant effort considering that it is a little after five o’clock in the morning.
We navigate Cutter Loose to Sandy Hook Point in darkness, then first light. While we are enjoying a hot mug of tea in the cockpit, the high speed ferries are already whisking their passengers from Atlantic Highlands to Manhatten. We exit the Sandy Hook Channel and enter the Atlantic Ocean at sunrise. The sky is aglow in reds, purples and oranges. Red sky in morning?
Today’s journey will cover 83 miles over a 13 hour period. Our course takes us south, running four miles offshore of the New Jersey coast. No sooner is the autopilot set, it must be disengaged to steer clear of floating debris left over from Irene. The VHF radio describes flooding conditions and U. S. Coast Guard buoys that are off station, all outcomes of the storm. New Jersey was not treated kindly by Irene. We offer yet another word of thanks in appreciation for suriving the storm unscathed.
A friendly voice comes over the VHF from the trawler Amici. Cutter Loose was anchored near Amici in Atlantic Highlands last evening. Both vessels are bound for Atlantic City today, but Amici cruises at a much higher speed. We compare notes on anchorage alternatives, Amici preferring the relative calm of Rum Cove. On our previous visit to Atlantic City, we paused to inspect the entrance to Rum Cove, then quickly moved on to another anchorage. The entrance to Rum Cove appeared to be of sufficient width to accommodate a narrow kayak. But Amici is confident that Cutter Loose will fit. We agree to discuss this opportunity later in the day.
A strange thing happens en route to Atlantic City. Out of nowhere, a 100+ foot party fishing boat is barrelling down on Cutter Loose. It comes to a sudden stop less than 50 yards from our bow. The skipper sounds a horn and the paying customers dutifully cast their lines overboard. We are close enough to see the hopeful expressions on their faces. There is a vast ocean in which to fish. Why select a place so close to the path of Cutter Loose? And if this happens to be the most productive fishing spot on the Jersey coast, why not wait two minutes until we have cleared the area before making a sudden stop? Inexplicable things happen all the time out here.
With Atlantic City still 20 miles off in the distance, the shapes of its highrise towers are already vaguely visible, rising out of the water as if in a watercolor painting. At 6 PM, Cutter Loose has entered Absecon Inlet. We are staring in disbelief at the entrance to Rum Cove. Inside the cove is Amici at anchor. The Captain comes up on the VHF with specific instructions for entering the cove. The trick is to avoid the sandy side and favor the marsh side of the channel. The navigable width of the channel is perhaps 20 feet. Once inside, we are anchored in 12 feet of calm water. Although a bit nervewracking to enter, this quiet spot is certainly preferable to anchoring in the strong tidal currents next to the Atlantic City – Brigantine Bridge. We radio to thank our new friends aboard Amici for their guidance and settle in for a relaxed evening after a long day at sea.