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Archive for the ‘Delaware’ Category

When I was a kid, we used to play a game in the neighborhood called Red Light, Green Light.  If you’re not familiar with it, check the Wikihow description here.  After spending about 2.5 weeks getting from Long Island to Norfolk, I’ve come to the conclusion that cruising the Mid-Atlantic coast is a bit like playing a game of Red Light, Green Light with Mother Nature.  Mostly she played fair and everyone won.

From the Atlantic Highlands area of New Jersey, the only way back south is to go offshore.  Unlike the southeastern coast of the US where the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway (AICW) offers the option of an inside/protected route from Norfolk/Portsmouth, VA all the way to Miami and into the Florida Keys, there is no such route along the Jersey/Delaware/Maryland/Virginia shore.  Yes, there are short inside stretches, but they are restricted by the occasional low fixed bridge.  To get south, you simply have to make some outside/offshore runs.  Our Cheshire however, is not a heavy weather boat. Consequently she and her crew are very cautious about weather, especially when heading offshore and particularly during hurricane season where conditions can change with little notice.

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Lori’s offshore survival stash

Everyday aboard starts with coffee and weather checks.  Not just the what’s-the-temperature-going-to-be and is-it-going-to-rain kind of weather.  Like all cruisers, we have multiple weather sites bookmarked on our various electronic devices.  We’re interested in wind velocity, wind direction, precipitation, sea states, storms, storm tracks, etc.  Then there are currents and tides, very important if coming/going from inlets where things can get dicey in unfavorable conditions.  For planning an offshore run, we’re interested in all of these things, but for multiple locations along our planned route, and not just for today, but for several days into the future.  When the planets line up and a weather window looks good, we go.

From the Atlantic Highlands/Sandy Hook area, we made a 25+ hour/125 nautical mile overnight run to Breakwater Harbor near Lewes, DE where we’d pause to await the next window.  It turned out to be a long pause.  We were in a protected anchorage, but with not much for easy shore access.  There’s a beautiful beach nearby, Cape Henlopen State Park, but apparently the powers that be have gotten cranky about folks arriving via water, so landing one’s dinghy on the beach is apparently now a no-no.  In any event, we spent 4 days anchored here without setting foot off the boat.  Needless to say, we did a lot of reading.  At least we had a nice view of nearby Breakwater Light.  I was amused to watch the sight-seeing tour boats come and go.

We’d hoped our next jump would take us all of the way to Norfolk, but Mother Nature was having none of that.  One morning we finally had a small weather window (which I’ve come to refer to as a weather porthole) and decided to make a day run to Ocean City, MD.  Six hours and 32 nautical miles later we’d successfully navigated the inlet and were anchor down behind Assateague Island.  Shore access here for anchored boats is also limited, so we opted to move to a nearby dock the next morning for the couple of nights we anticipated we’d have to wait for our next window.  Unlike our last stop, we took full advantage of being attached to a dock (for the first time in nearly 3 months).  We did laundry, we did some provisioning, both much easier from the dock vs by dinghy.  We supported a number of local drinking/dining establishments.  Decatur Diner was a favorite, in fact we went twice.  Don’t miss the Pipeline for breakfast; we shared a half order.  Harborside Bar and Grill was good for beers and apps.  They’re famous for a drink called an Orange Crush; I (Lori) had the grapefruit version which was quite tasty.  At Martin Fish Company, a seafood market/take-out/eat-in spot, we had some good draft beers and shared a fried clam dinner.

One afternoon, we pedaled over to check out the and Life-Saving Station Museum and the Ocean City Boardwalk.  The Life-Saving Station was a mid 1970’s rescue/rehab effort and has been transformed into a nice maritime museum.  The Boardwalk dates from 1902 and was quite a trip.  The arcade was like none I’ve seen.  Tourist-trappy restaurants also looked to be plentiful but we limited ourselves to a bag of carmel corn as we strolled.  The small craft advisory level winds made for some impressive kite flying displays.

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Maryland’s Indian, artist Peter Toth

As we made our way back to our bikes, we stumbled upon an interesting sculpture.  Maryland’s Indian is one installment in a collection known as the Trail of the Whispering Giants.  Hungarian-born sculptor  Peter Wolf Toth set out to place at least one carving in each of the 50 states, a goal he completed in 1988.  His sculptures are a tribute of sorts to native peoples around the country.  See the website linked above for more of his story and some photos.

After three nights total in Ocean City, a window opened.  Alas, the tides and currents of the inlet dictated that we’d best plan for a late afternoon departure.  Cheshire got a much needed bubble bath which was promptly undone when we were waked by a ginormous sport-fisher before we’d even got out of the inlet.  But we did get out and had a beautiful run, albeit motoring, down the coast.  As the 37 mile length of Assateague Island is state park and national seashore land, it was mostly dark.  Little ambient light made for an impressive sky full of stars, and in the early morning hours, a pretty crescent moon.  See photo below, my weak attempt to capture the sunrise.  We caught a couple more lighthouses on this run, or three actually if you count Assateague Light on the southern end of the barrier island of the same name, but I saw only the flashing light during a night watch; sorry no photo.   Cape Charles Light was very distant in the early morning light, and Thimble Shoals Light  greeted us as we approached Hampton Roads inlet.  A morning weather check advised of a small craft advisory in the lower end of the bay (not previously forecast), so our entry was a bit bumpy.  Twenty-four hours and 115 or so nautical miles later, we were anchor down at Hospital Point, mile-marker 0, the northern most point of the AICW.  

We’d heard even before leaving Ocean City though, that there had been much rain and consequent flooding in the area, so much so that both the Virginia Cut and the alternate Dismal Swamp Canal sections of the AICW were closed.  Opening/closing bridges and locks alike don’t behave well in flood conditions.  Although we had hoped to do the Dismal again (find posts about our last trips here and here), it remained closed after the Virginia Cut route opened.  So we’re off, down the Virginia Cut.  Hopefully we’ll make Oriental, NC in a week or so.

As always, thanks for following along.  Stay tuned.

 

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When the weather nixed an outside run from Norfolk, we opted, instead of waiting indefinitely for more favorable weather, to make our way inside up the Chesapeake Bay.  Now at the north end of the Bay,  our route would take us through the Chesapeake & Delaware Canal, or C&D Canal, then down (yes, that would be south, when we’re really trying to go north) the Delaware River, into Delaware Bay to the Atlantic.  First though, we’d pause briefly in Chesapeake City.

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via US Army Corps of Engineers

The construction of the C&D Canal  was apparently quite a process, and it’s evolved a bit since its initial construction.   After a false start earlier in the century, the canal opened in 1829.  In the beginning, it was 14 miles long, 10 feet deep, 66 feet wide at the waterline and 36 feet at the channel bottom… all dug with picks and shovels, and included 4 locks.  Teams of horses and mules towed vessels through the canal.  In the mid 19th century, a steam operated pump was added to help move water around the locks.  By the end of the century, larger, deeper draft vessels were problematic.

Enter Teddy Roosevelt who decided the waterway needed to be “free and open”.  The Federal government purchased the whole mess in 1919, and over the next few years, replaced all the bridge and removed all the locks.  This “new” sea level canal was 12 feet deep and 90 feet wide.  By the mid 1930’s however, it was deepened to 27 feet and widened to 250 feet.  The mid 1960’s – mid-70’s saw yet another expansion, to 35 feet deep and 450 feet wide.  Of course the several bridges were improved as well.

Today, the C&D Canal is designated as a National Historic Civil Engineering and Mechanical Engineering Landmark… who knew there was such a thing.  The original pumphouse now houses a small but nicely done museum managed by the Army Corps of Engineers, and includes the waterwheel and pump engines.  Also on the grounds is a full-sized replica of the Bethel Bridge Lighthouse, one of several lights that helped to mark the locks of the original waterway.

 

We spent a couple of nights in Chesapeake City, which is full of  19th century homes that are well maintained.  It was a pleasant place to wander around a bit.  Lunch at Bohemia Cafe was OK.  We had a drink later at the Chesapeake Inn tiki bar, which is apparently the place to be… saw more people there than in the entire rest of Chesapeake City, though we weren’t impressed with the party-central vibe of this place either.  Our last night in town though, we dined at the Hole in the Wall Bar, part of the Bayard House restaurant… said to be about 200 years old, this place had lots of character, local beers and some tasty eats.

In addition to having to dodge ginormous commercial vessels (we’re definitely the small fish in this pond), there are also some wicked currents flowing through these waters.  We would time our passage very carefully.  Friday morning we were up and out, though not as early as we’d hoped as we had to wait for the only fuel dock in the area to open.  Poor planning on our part; should have gotten fuel when we arrived.  As planned though, we had a favorable current through the canal.  It was uneventful in that we only had one commercial vessel to contend with.  The canal wasn’t spectacular to look at, but I found myself in awe imagining the efforts over the years to build and then expand this bit of water that used to be dirt.

Late morning, immediately upon entering the Delaware River though, things got ugly.  We knew we’d encounter pretty stiff head current and sure enough we did.  We opted as planned to anchor for a few hours behind Reedy Island to wait for it to turn around a bit, during which the skies opened up and rained on us… which wasn’t so bad because we collected some water.   A few hours later we were underway again, with a good current behind us, but the winds were on our nose (definitely not what was forecast), so the sea state was ugly.  The best part of this run was a close up view of Ship John Shoal Light.

LS_20160624_181726 Ship John Shoal Light, Delaware Bay, New Jersey

Ship John Shoal Light, NJ/Delaware Bay

Ship John Shoal Lighthouse actually sits in New Jersey waters on the Delaware Bay.   It had a long history up until about 2001 when it was deemed “excess to the needs of the United States Coast Guard” (translate: they didn’t want to pay to maintain it any more) and offered to eligible organizations under the provisions of the National Historic Lighthouse Preservation Act of 2000.  This is actually a pretty interesting program and has saved a number of historic lighthouses, but alas, not the Ship John Shoal.  No eligible  organizations (that is nonprofit or historical organizations that meet certain criteria) were interested , so it went up for auction.  First pass, a reportedly ridiculously low-ball bid was rejected.  Second pass someone actually bought this light for just over $60,000.  I’m not sure much has happened since then… it looks pretty untouched to me.  The birds seem to enjoy it though.

We tucked into a small cove on the Jersey side of the Delaware Bay for the evening and finished our run into Cape May the following morning.  We’ll pause here for a bit of rest and recuperation.

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