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Old 01-08-2012, 21:21   #1
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Navigating plum gut

So what's the deal with this inlet? I have to navigate through it on a cruise in a few weeks and all the advice I'm getting is both contradictory and intimidating.
I have a copy of Eldridge's but don't know what to look for timing wise. Specific routes through would be helpful.

Thanks!
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Old 02-08-2012, 05:47   #2
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Re: Navigating plum gut

No big deal. Sure the tide can run a few knots, but any reasonably powered boat can make it through just fine. Here are the comments from Active Captain. Some are more strident than others. I guess it depends on your experience and cojonies.

Even with our relatively high powered sailboat (660 hp) we had lots of fun maintianing our course and dodging fishing boats. Next time we'll wait for slack current simply because the fishing boats can be challenge alone.

Most of the fishing boats hang over toward the Plum Island side on those shoals by the R2. Those that fish the west usualy go by the rocks west of the bug light. The Orient Ferry favors the wind so if wind is out of the west the south bound will head that way before cutting inside the light. Wind from the east and they'll come through on the Plum Is. side past the 2. It should also be noted that there's another ferry there running over to Plum Island who runs straight across from Orient to Plum. I generally run across the 16' mark off the bug light. Tends to be less traffic.

when coming from the East through Fishers Is Sound and fighting a foul ebb tide I hug the Ct coast where the current is weak until dead north of the Gut, then pass that point so when I turn south I can set east with the current, and the ebb scoots me through the Gut like a champ. It is powerful there, and plenty of other boats to watch.

The area is prime fishing and can be crowded with commercial and private boats drifting and coming and going. Flor a slower vessel, dodging between the ferries and the fishing boats requires a sharp lookout. When the fog rolls in it only compounds the challenge.

The New London Ferry uses this channel for its transit to Orient Point. They move quickly and there are times I've sailed through when one ferry is entering from the North while the second is leaving Orient Point and about to enter from the South. The passage is not too wide so keep an eye out for them keep clear.

This is not a channel to be taken lightly. An underpowered boat can find itself in a great deal of trouble. The current is heady and if you happen to be in an opposing wind, it turns into a washing machine. It can get as bad as 8' chop 3 seconds apart. There are plenty of ways to go around this. Use them.
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Old 02-08-2012, 06:28   #3
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Re: Navigating plum gut

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Originally Posted by GreggL View Post
So what's the deal with this inlet? I have to navigate through it on a cruise in a few weeks and all the advice I'm getting is both contradictory and intimidating.
I have a copy of Eldridge's but don't know what to look for timing wise. Specific routes through would be helpful.

Thanks!
As the previous poster mentioned slack time is best but, not essential. The best next option is go with the flow. The Eldridge will show what times those currents change and the velocity. I don't have my copy in front of me but, I'm pretty sure you use the the times for the Race to start. Pick the day and then see what time by the hourly current diagrams when you will be heading through the Gut. For example if the time in the Eldridge says the ebb at the Race is 12 noon and you arrive to go through Plum Gut at 2 PM you would look at the current diagram that says "two hours after the Ebb starts at the Race". Pretty easy and very helpful when sailing all over Long Island Sound and beyond.
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Old 02-08-2012, 07:10   #4
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Re: Navigating plum gut

Go through on Slack or Go with current flow.
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Old 02-08-2012, 07:52   #5
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Thanks!

Should I favor one side over the other? And If the wind is opposing the current what's my best bet?

Also I heard there's a passage just east of plum island that is significantly easier, any truth to that?
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Old 02-08-2012, 08:08   #6
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Re: Navigating plum gut

The other two "exits" off the LI Sound are the Race and the Watch Hill Channel. Both are similar to the Plum Gut in terms of wind and tide although we have found the Plum Gut the fastest current of the three. I would use which ever channel suits your needs in terms of destination and gives you the best chance of avoiding wind against current situtations. If that option is not available its about a 3 mile ride over rougher condiditons depending on wind velocity and direction.

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Old 02-08-2012, 08:46   #7
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Plum gut is the most direct route to sag harbor which is my destination. I'll be coming from old Saybrook on that leg of the trip. I have a 33 foot hunter with a 29 hp auxiliary, usually cruising at 6 knots. Will that be an issue?
Is there a point at which I should not make the passage? For instance wind against current, or will it just be a little more difficult?
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Old 02-08-2012, 09:52   #8
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Re: Navigating plum gut

Saybrook to Plum Gut is usually a good sail with prevailing SW winds.
Plan for Slack or with the current. Wind against the current will make it choppier along with all the boat traffic.

This reminds me of the first time I went through Hells Gate down the East River to the Statue of Liberty. I had heard all kinds of bad things to watch out for and well wishers for our journey in our little Catalina 30. We timed Hells Gate for Slack tide and we went through it and said, What is that it. Hells Gate was like a mirror.

Plan ahead and enjoy the trip.
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Old 02-08-2012, 10:29   #9
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Re: Navigating plum gut

I wouldn't call Plum Gut an "inlet". But since you can make 6 knots and the current there is usually less than 4 knots, you should have no problem powering through, assuming you have wind or engine.

The only problem is that if you should lose control, or lose track of your position, there are plenty of spots that would love to punch a hole in a boat. And of course, when wind and current are contrary you'll have a rougher ride and a better chance of a problem. (Diesels love to foul and die when the fuel tank gets shaken up, don't they?)

Oh, and then there are the mutant giant kraken that got free from the Plum Island Lab a few years ago, do not try to feed or pet them, they bite.

Other than that...just another lazy day in paradise.
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