After too many summers envying our friends’ boats, having fun on a series of Boston Whalers that were not quite the yacht my husband envisioned, we finally got lucky when we discovered a neglected 2003 – 36-foot Sabre Flybridge named “Lucky Charm”. As luck would have it, she had survived Hurricane Sandy in the water at Liberty Landing Marina in Jersey City, and her price had dropped – an opportunity for us!
It was love at first sight for me, and luckily for Lucky Charm she seamed LUCKY! During our sea trial, we were in the salon with the inspector when we heard a loud crack. We rushed to the bow to witness a 48-Foot Grand Banks scraping across our bow sprit, the mega-yachts mahogany railings were snapping like toothpicks as they grazed off our anchor. Luckily, “Lucky Charm”, was unscathed!
Buying a boat was a longer process than buying our home: survey, sea trial, Coast Guard registration, sailing resumes, insurance, three Maine to New Jersey road trips and transferring a “boat load” of money. We had her hauled, washed, bottom-painted, buffed and serviced in preparation for our 440-mile voyage to Maine. The previous owner had clearly lost interest in the boat, but fortunately the marina had exercised the engines with a few trips each season. The plumbing however, had been ignored, more about that later. A training day with a USCG captain was $350 well spent. Being sailors, we were in the deep-end learning to operate a yacht with twin diesel engines, a generator, dual helms with radar, autopilot, GPS, shore power, air conditioning and a head with fancy vacu flush.
We finally set sail from Sandy Hook on a scorching hot July day. I know it’s a power boat but I’m a traditionalist, so pardon my sailing idioms. We cruised under the Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge into New York Harbor, with magnificent views of the Statue of Liberty, One World Trade Center and the entire NYC skyline. Our first stop was Liberty Landing Marina Jersey City with stunning view of NYC. After our first docking, under close captain guidance, drinks on the Fly were especially celebratory! That first night aboard Lucky we found the island V-berth to be very comfy. The custom sheets fit perfectly, even if you can’t make a boat bed without banging your head. The air conditioning was awesome, something we’d rarely use in Maine.
Day 2, we were up early to cross NY Harbor before it got to busy and to time the tides as we headed up the East River with its notorious tidal flow. Our Sabre’s twin diesels passed the test in the strong current, as we pushed under the Brooklyn Bride and through the aptly named “Hells Gate” with its crazy currents. We continued into Long Island Sound, which was calm as a pond. Captain Greg had an eye on our radar, watching thunderstorms tracking us down in our wake, so we skipped Port Jefferson and traveled the full 135-miles to the tip of Long Island. Fog rolled in during our Montauk approach, a reminder that you must always have your GPS coordinates and chart handy.
Montauk Yacht Club dockhands directed us to an impossibly tight slip. The wind was howling and Lucky blew down two slips, so Captain Greg asked to back her in. The dockhands scrambled, I did too as deck crew, and we had our a successful, albeit stressful, first solo dockage. Montauk Yacht Club is pretty posh in boaters’ terms: pool, spa, showers, bikes and a shuttle into town. The next day was foggy and stormy, so we hunkered down and explored Montauk by bike, including delicious seafood at Inlet’s.
Day 4, our passage to Block Island brought big seas, but Lucky charged valiantly thru, and we docked at Rhode Island’s famed Champlin’s Marina, where a flotilla of boats are anchored, moored, rafted and double parked. Champlin’s fleet of 12 blue-shirted dockhands can wedge boats in like no marina we’ve ever witnessed. They efficiently secure boats, Flemish lines and fetch ice from dawn until well after dusk. After biking around beautiful Block Island, The Oar was our scenic dinner spot, a 10-minute walk from the docks. We returned to Champlin’s. Tunes and cocktails flowed about the docks, and the rooftop deck rocked with a live band.
Skipper’s Log: We decided to remove the “Charm” from Lucky Charm, about this point in our journey, so she’d be rechristened just plain “Lucky”.
Our GPS, which worked beautifully on sunny days, registered no fix the next foggy morning. Thankfully, Captain Greg had downloaded Navionics to his iPhone, so that app and old-fashioned charts plus our compass provided bearings for our 22-mile journey to Newport. A sailing regatta lined the entry to Newport Harbor, our welcome to the yachting capital of the world. Following a gulp of 200 gallons of diesel ($ GULP) at Newport Yachting Center, we docked at the lovely Newport Harbor Hotel & Marina.
After a refreshing walk and provisioning in Newport, we returned to the dock to find our yachting neighbors talking about a dreadful stink. As we approached we too were aghast, and even more so when we realized it appeared as if it might be emanating from our boat. Turns out that when we macerated out at sea, we had pumped our holding tank dry. After years of little use, the boat had dreadful dry tank. Our neighbors were more than happy to help us pour bleach into our waste tank and flush down plenty of blue deodorizer. Within a few hours we smelled fresh and were drinking margaritas with our new dock friends. Dinner at Newport’s Clarks Cook House surrounded by America’s Cup memorabilia was the perfect end to the day’s boating adventures.
Day 6, we awakened with strong coffee and equally bold sunshine and departed Newport Harbor. A heat wave had brought seas so calm that the sun sparkled off the water as we cruised 26 miles to Menemsha, on the western flank of Martha’s Vineyard. Menemsha is a setting that is simply unmatched with an oceanfront beach, bustling town docks, fish markets and the most amazing sunsets. Being a municipal dock, you must call the Harbormaster at 7 a.m. for a precious stern-in, pile-on slip, which Captain Greg reserved on his 63rd dial at 7:10 that morning (by 7:15 a.m. they sell out). After a refreshing swim, we savored cocktails, local steamers and chowder from Larsen’s, and watched the most brilliant orange sunset from our flybridge …. feeling very lucky indeed.
A gorgeous sail into Buzzards Bay day 7 swept us to the meandering Red Brook Harbor of Cataumet. At Kingman Yacht Center, a friendly dockhand greeted us with a welcome bag – nice touch. We spent the 98-degree day cleaning every nook and lazarette of our new baby. Later on, we cleaned up ourselves for dinner of chowder and baked stuffed clams at the popular Chart Room, steps from the dock.
Our cast off on Day 8 was delayed upon discovering transmission oil on the engine room floor, more plumbing issues (terribly leaky toilet now). My husband was not feeling so lucky to have become so intimate with all of Lucky’s greasy gunky parts. After a day of repairs, the next we cruised up Cape Cod Canal into Massachusetts Bay which in the middle of the heat wave was a picture perfect mill pond! We found a perfect picnic anchorage off Kettle Island just south of Gloucester and enjoyed a swim. The time flew by why we waited for the ideal tide to tackle the tricky Annisquam River. Narrow bridges opened for our 20′ tall flybridge with a VHF shout out on Channel 13. Cruising past Gloucester, we noted the atrocious wind turbines now dominating the sky of this historic fishing village. That blows, we thought.
The Annisquam River is tight and twisty, with sand bars jutting out and small boats dodging around the channel. Our mooring in Lobster Cove was lovely, except that Capt. Greg had discovered more transmission oil leaking. A refreshing swim off the stern provided distraction, along with cocktails on the fly (our favorite perch) and a delicious dinner at Talise, just a few strokes away by dinghy.
Next morning, we cruised 20 miles to Isle of Shoals off Portsmouth. On a mooring amid Star Island, Smuttynose, and Appledore, we enjoyed the last of our provisions in a delightful 80-degree breeze. Our final stop over was the four-diamond Wentworth by the Sea in Newcastle – the high-brow resort marina has a swimming pool, showers, WiFi and several restaurants, from a casual dockside cafe to the upscale Salt Kitchen.
Our Day 10 goal had been to reach the Kennebunk River, but our new-to-us boat required more transmission attention, so we nosed into the swift current of Portsmouth Harbor past Kittery and Portsmouth and under three bridges. The Piscataqua River rips, so we timed our six-mile trip for peak high-tide, even at slack there’s no slacking on this second-fastest-flowing river in the country.
Our resting place and repair spot was Great Bay Marine. Greg was relieved to learn that the transmission leak was just a matter of properly seating the dipstick. I refrained from dipstick name calling. That evening’s sunset with a bonus double rainbow was outstanding, confirming that we were very lucky indeed. Final day, we were joined by my Dad and brother who joined us for our last leg to Kennebunkport, and their first of many voyages aboard Lucky.