|CrystalblueoceanSailing and Diving Around the World|
sailing and diving around the world
After a good rest on the hook, we weighed anchor at 2pm, and headed out into the Atlantic Ocean, bound for Delaware City. Our plan was to a night sail, down to Cape May, NJ, transit the Cape May Canal, motor up Delaware Bay into the Delaware River, passing the C & D Canal, and overnight at the Delaware City Marina, which is a few miles north of the C&D Canal. We would then leave the next day and transit the Chesapeake & Delaware (C&D) Canal, and head south into Chesapeake Bay, to Annapolis, Maryland. Just like the Erie Canal and the Hudson River, the Cap May and the C&D Canals are a breeze. Watch your tides when in Cape May, and remember there is a bridge. Sailboats may have to do the outside passage into Delaware Bay. The C&D Canal is also a snap, you just need to position yourself to be going into the Canal with the tide. The Chesapeake is a fairly simple voyage, as long as you pick the right time to ride the tide. Delaware Bay, on the other hand, can be a little tricky.
If you look at a map, you'll see that the Chesapeake has a narrow mouth for a bay of its size, so it isn't so exposed to the Atlantic, and the waves from the Atlantic can't travel straight up the bay. The mouth of the Chesapeake is also shallow enough to take some of the kick out of those ocean rollers, but deep enough to allow even the biggest vessels through.. Delaware Bay, on the other hand, opens wide to the Atlantic, and is basically funnel-shaped, narrowing as it becomes the Delaware River, at the top. So, the wide mouth allows the heavy Atlantic swells to come barrelling through. It shallows up pretty fast at the mouth of Delaware Bay, and stays shallow all the way up to the river. However, what makes Delaware Bay particularly tricky is that there are these deep, finger-like ridges, that run from the mouth of the bay, up into the bay itself. So, the sea rips through these deep, narrow channels and suddenly hits the wall at the top end of the the canyons and then has no where to go but up. Right beside one of these canyons, even six miles offshore, you could be standing in knee-deep water.
So, with those deep canyons, shallow water everywhere else, up to 7' tides, pretty strong 5-knot tidal currents ripping along an uneven bottom, and some of the busiest giant ship traffic in the U.S, you can get some 'interesting' effects. That's why a lot of boaters are a little edgy as they head out into Delaware Bay. Most people try to make the 60 or so miles to Chesapeake City, in one day, and, of course, it's doable. Like any sailing on tidal waters, however, you're always looking to depart with a fair tide. Of, course, you'd never leave without first making sure, as best as humanly possible, to have a good weather window.
We left Atlantic Highlands at 2pm and headed south. Easy peasy. Follow the channel markers. At about 2am, we shut each engine down, one at a time, to check the fluids. We reached Cape May Inlet at 9:45am, on June 10 and carried on through the Cape May Canal. Nothing tough about it. There is that one bridge, though, that might restrict taller masted sailboats. When you get to the west end of the canal, you'll come up to Lewes Ferry dock, so be cautious around those ferries when they are coming in or departing. In fact, if you see one backing out, simply wait for it to finish its maneuvering and then follow it out. The canal if fairly narrow, so a ferry will take up the whole canal if it needs to turn around.
Once out of the Cape May Canal you have the expanse of Delaware Bay in front of you. 315 degrees true will lead you on a course that will gradually merge you with the main channel, somewhere around Ship John Shoal. As you're coming out of Cape May Canal, and turn north into Delaware Bay, the main channel is to port and it's about 3 or so miles away. Pretty pointless, really, to try to cross over immediately, to get into it. There was a bit of larger ship traffic, but there was never a problem or possibility of conflict. In fact, don't be surprised if several Captains hail you on the VHF to tell you they're there and to indicate what side they'll be passing you on. Once I merged with the main channel, miles up the bay, I simply stayed way over to the right side of the channel, anyway. We had beautiful weather and calm seas all the way. There aren't many places to stop from Cape May Canal to the C&D Canal. You can stop at the Cohansey River, Reedy Island, or Delaware City and the Salem River, both north of the C&D Canal.
Delaware City Marina is about 3 miles north of the C&D Canal, and we tied up there at 6:45pm. Of course, call ahead so they know you're coming, and they'll be waiting at the dock to help you tie up. It was $2/ft/night and the facilities were great. There is a mini grocery, a liquor store, and a couple of restaurants.
We departed Delaware City Marina on June 11, at 7am and headed into the C&D Canal. Not much to say about the canal transit. Beautiful weather and some beautiful shoreside homes. There is no speed limit, however, so be prepared for some rocking. We didn't do the traditional stop at Chesapeake City, though, as our objective was to get to Annapolis the same day. There was quite a bit of beautiful scenery and lovely homes as we exited the C&D Canal, into the Elk River. A litter further along and we were in the Chesapeake, proper. Unlike Delaware Bay, there are many places to stop on Chesapeake Bay- Piney Creek Cove (anchorage on the west side of Elk River), Sassafras River, Worton Creek, to name a few.
By 5:30, we were tied up at a dock in Chesapeake Harbor Marina. This is one of the nicest marinas I've ever stayed in. This also, so it seems, is the Kadey Krogen mecca. Why, just down a couple of docks, there are two Krogen Whalebacks, side by side. What are the chances?
We decided to wait a day for a better weather window, so we pretty much just sat around and rested after our epic run through NYC harbor :)