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Putting out to Sea

by Daria Blackwell

In the 1950s and ‘60s, Long Island Sound was such a center for boating and water-based recreation, that it was affectionately dubbed “The American Mediterranean.”  And in a lovely book called the Inland Sea, Morton Hunt says, “…almost every man sailing across Long Island Sound feels himself to be another Joshua Slocum, capable of sailing around the world single-handed.” 

And so it is true today, because having sailed the Chesapeake , Florida , and the islands among other destinations, we recognize that Long Island Sound has a well deserved reputation for being able to challenge the seasoned sailor. 

Just think about it.  Tidal variations that are greatest at the Western end, currents that are strongest at the Eastern end, a square, tooth-jarring wave pattern, submerged boulders left behind by retreating glaciers, islands to navigate around, and fluctuating weather that may include dense fog, flat calm, lightning storms that can turn that flat calm into a maelstrom, and when the wind turns against the tide, waves that might rival the Gulf Stream.  Oh yes, and don’t forget the human factor: giant barges that never stop, go-fast boat races, submarine traffic, and those pesky personal water craft.  It also gets a nice prevailing southwesterly breeze throughout the summer that is somewhat tempered by the expanse of Long Island protecting its windward approaches.

Compare that to Chesapeake Bay where there’s rarely more than a two-foot variation in tide, the bottom is soft mud so grounding is expected of adventurous gunkholers, and the wind is a gentle hot breath in the summer months that barely creates a ripple.  Based on personal experience, the Sound is a much superior proving ground.  I always knew it, but it was emphasized on a charter check out in the Abacos when the manager said, “Is Long Island Sound as tricky as I hear?” 

It’s actually a great place to sail!  You can hop from lovely harbor to harbor, do a magical non-stop overnight from one end to the other, traverse down the East River to the center of civilization or for a quick exit to the ocean and run up the mighty Hudson, and you can even make for the islands (Block, Cuttyhunk, Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket) or circumnavigate Long Island for a little offshore experience...all within a week's vacation.  It has yacht clubs, marinas, and secluded anchorages. It offers local club racing, interclub regattas, distance races, and world championships. It’s got some of everything. 

Not that sailing in other places isn’t fantastic, but sailing on Long Island Sound has so much variety that it provides a budding sailor with everything she or he needs to test skills, courage, stamina, and level-headed decision making ability. Add to that a variety of beautiful surroundings and entertaining destinations, and you’ve got a cruising ground well worth working at nine-to-five jobs for. 

As we add to our repertoire of topics, we will concentrate on providing as much coverage of destinations, seamanship, and resources as we can muster.  Please do write to us and let us know what you’d like to see most.  Prioritizing is sometimes the hardest part.

See you on the water.

Joy of sailingCoastal Boating (Reg. in Ireland No. 443222) is a division of Knowledge Clinic Ltd.
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