Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Good Bye Annapolis, Hello Sassafras River? Then On To Delaware City.


Morning came up in Annapolis with the promise of a good cruising day to our destination for the night, a bend in the Sassafras River about thirty miles up the bay from Annapolis on the east side. It was still in Maryland but it is the first time that we were on the eastern shore. Norfolk – west side. Deltaville – west side. Potomac River – west side. Solomons – west side. Annapolis – west side. Oh there is plenty to see and do on the east side but we never made it over there. But this would be the day!

The Chesapeake Bay is very wide at its southern mouth and narrows as you go north. As we inched our way up towards the Sassafras it looked more like a river than a bay. And I do mean “inched”. The weather forecast was for seas of two feet or less but with five to ten knot winds from the north which slowed us down a bunch to where most of the time we were cruising at only about 6.3 knots per hour. Sometimes it was in the high fives. But we did reach it without too much hassle. The waves were disorganized to where things were more of a moderate chop rather than wavy and roll-y. Not too bad.

We drove into the Sassafras to find that it was a fairly busy recreational boating area. Not as heavy as Annapolis, which was uber busy with boats but there were some. It seems that while Annapolis had mostly sailboats in it’s waters the Sassafras attracts more powerboats, and of those most seem to be the real high horsepower, low profile boats built strictly to do one thing – go really fast in a straight line. As we approached the river we witnessed two different groups of speed boats in what could be called drag races. There were three in the first race and two in the second. They were both off to our starboard side. One nice thing about these boats is that when they are on plane they don’t make much of a wake so they were fun to watch and that was that. Our anchorage was in a bend back into the river a bit. Not a bad overall location but it was wakey.

In the morning we pulled up the anchor and headed on further north towards the C&D Canal which, for all intents and purposes, marks the end of the Chesapeake Bay up north. We entered the canal (C&D stands for Chesapeake and Delaware.) and since it was Sunday it was almost vacant except for a few fishing boats and two commercial ships up near its end in the Delaware River, which makes up the northern end of the bay. Exiting the canal we headed north for a short distance to another narrow canal, which was the actual old time C&D Canal, to Delaware City and its municipal marina. It’s a nice marina and we actually had planned to spend some time there because the most recent weather forecast that we had seen was for marginal conditions to make the run down Delaware Bay.
C&D Canal

C&D Canal

Lighthouse heading down Delaware Bay
There is a running gag amongst cruisers that the only reason to go to Delaware Bay is to go thru Delaware Bay, and there is truth to that. Delaware City seemed nice but as far as the rest of the bay goes there really isn’t much else going for it. There are not any rivers or inlets or towns to speak of its entire length until you get down to the bottom southeast end in Cape May, NJ. (The west side of the bay is Delaware and the east side is New Jersey.) And quite frankly compared to our wonderful experience in Chesapeake Bay, Delaware Bay was a let-down. But we settled in Why Knot at the marina in Delaware City waiting for conditions to arise to be able make a successful transit of the bay to Cape May. You see, besides being an anti-tourist-destination Delaware Bay also has a reputation of being a really crummy body of water to cruise on unless the conditions are perfect. And like I said, the forecast wasn’t looking too good.

Of course that all changed overnight. The new weather forecast for Monday was for fair southerly winds (not ideal) and relatively calm seas. What was going to be a day in Delaware City now became a cruising day down the Delaware. There was another couple, Jim and Gail of the boat Jim-Oh docked with us. Nice folks! They were going to make the transit too. We consulted with Tim, the dock master at the marina.

Let me tell you about Tim. Omigod! This guy was totally freaking amazing! He is King Neptune of Delaware Bay. He looked at all the factors including the currents, tides, weather, our boats…everything. He laid out the exact plan that we had to follow including when our speeds would be slow because of currents going north, higher speeds that we would achieve when the currents turned around heading south, what kind of winds we would have and what kind of wave conditions we would have…and when in our cruise we could expect each of these occurrences. He even told us that we had to pass a nuclear energy plant by a certain time to be able to make it into Cape May without getting rocked. And darned if he wasn’t 99% correct. The only thing he missed that instead of three to four foot waves in the last fifteen miles of the cruise we ended up with two to three foot high waves. Of drat! So with Tim’s help we made it into Cape May AOK, found our marina and settled in for the night. Tuesday would be our first ocean cruising leg from Cape May up to Atlantic City, NJ. That’s the ATLANTIC OCEAN!

One more funny thing…I got a call from my son Bryan to wish me happy father’s day. He casually asked me where we were. I told him we were in Delaware. He said,”Oh.” Then there was a pause and said back, “DELWARE?” If you want to keep up with dad you have to read the blogs, Bryan. That goes for you too, Kevin.