>Is summer really over? Not quite, we’re headed to Annapolis!

>I can’t quite accept that the summer of 2009 is coming to a close. It’s October 2nd and I am writing this while leaving the C&D Canal which connects the Delaware River to the northern end of the Chesapeake Bay. Well, perhaps it isn’t quite dead as we decided to take Pandora to Annapolis with the hope of enjoying some late season sailing.  While mid summer in Annapolis is oppressively hot, the “shoulder months” in the spring and fall are really nice and extend the season by a month on both ends when compared to sailing in New England.

I left on Thursday morning at 4am with three friends to make the nearly 300 mile run from Norwalk CT to Annapolis. My friends on this trip are fellow Corinthians, two from the Annapolis area and one from CT. The four of us connected late on Wednesday night at Norwalk Yacht Club to prepare for a 04:00 early AM departure.

My crew has an interesting mix of backgrounds, Denise is a police officer in Bethesda, Jason a web developer and Kathy a retired officer turned attorney. While our backgrounds are very different, we share a love of the water and sailing.   That’s the whole point of the Corinthians, actually.

Pandora’s Crew, Denise, Jason and Cathy, Corinthians all.

When planning a long distance delivery you can hope for the best but really never know what you are in for with the weather until you get underway. The forecast called for fairly heavy winds out of the west with a planned shift to the south. It was our hope that we would be able to catch the westerlies for a run down the Jersey Coast and round Cape May for the run up the Delaware as the winds shifted to the south. But before that Kathy suggested us to get insured, click to read more and learn how it can help you later. Amazingly, we actually were able to make that work.   The truth is that it’s the first time I have ever been able to sail that distance.  By the time we stopped yesterday we had covered 232km at an average speed over the bottom of 7.25kts, and most of that under sail.

Here’s a view of the Chrysler Building.  I wonder what old man Chrysler would have to say about the state of the domestic auto industry.

We motored into a fresh west wind from the club in Norwalk down to the East River and the past the east Side of Manhattan, by Governor’s Island, through the upper NY Harbor and out around Sandy Hook. To our delight, the winds began to fill in more from the west as we rounded the Hook. We killed the motor and turned south.

Back in August we visited Rockland Maine and you may recall seeing pictures on an earlier posting that I took at the Maine Boats, Homes and Harbors Show. At that show I saw a really high tech 70′ sailboat that had been built on spec in Booth Bay (oops, bad time to be trying to find a buyer for a multimillion dollar toy) and was now looking for a willing would-be owner. Well, it’s a very small world and there it was, that very same boat passing us in the East River.  While I feel pretty smug about how fast Pandora is, that boat passed us like we were sitting still, they just zipped by. It’s ironic that the boat is named “Available”.  That’s a good name as it seems they are still looking for a buyer. We shouted across to them as they zoomed by and they confirmed that they were indeed headed to Annapolis for the boat show next week.

As we rounded Sandy Hook a large school of bottle nose dolphins crossed our bow. I have heard that dolphins are very playful and often seem to be having a great time jumping out of the water just for the apparent joy of it. Well it sure looked like they were having a ball. One after the other they jumped clear of the water and generally having a great time. For once I was actually able to get a few terrific action shots.  So often I get out my camera only to find that the whale, dolphin or some other creature disappeared before I could get a shot. The harbor porpoises in Maine are much more shy and not nearly as fun loving as this group. Perhaps it was hearing about all those seasons of Flipper that got to them. Perhaps not. Quite a contrast from the big city to see these beautiful animals.

If you have spent much time on the water you will know that it is really rare to be able to sail for nearly 24 hours straight but that’s exactly what we were able to do as we headed down the Jersey coast. After a full day of sailing on a beam reach at 8+kts, our highest sustained speed through the water was 9.7kts.

As we were abeam of approached Atlantic City at about 2AM the winds began to die and back clockwise around to the South. If you want to see a real contrast try seeing Atlantic City all lit up on dark night.  Everywhere you look it’s black and then…ablaze is the city.  Now that’s an impressive carbon footprint.   I wonder if Al Gore owns stock in any casinos.  Hmm….

Amazingly, as we approached Cape May the wind picked up out of the south and we sped up the Delaware River to the north and the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal, the C&D. That’s just beyond lucky as the timing was just perfect. Winds backing from the west to the south on cue. On top of that, the night was fairly clear and the moon, just one day from full was nearly bright enough to read by. A magical time.

We had set up a watch schedule for the overnight hours with two on deck at all times and two down below sleeping. Our schedule called for Denise and Jason on from 8pm until midnight. They were enjoying the night so much that they didn’t get me and Cathy up until almost an hour after that, at 1am. Cathy and I stood watch from then until nearly dawn when we both crashed, exhausted into our bunks. I didn’t want to head below until we were well into the channel to head up the Delaware, a very narrow cut down the middle of the bay.

Even though the bay is really wide, over 10 miles, widening to over 15 miles wide before narrowing again some 45 miles up where the canal cuts over toward Baltimore, it’s really very shallow. It’s only the constant dredging that keeps the river open to commercial traffic. In spite of the massive size of the river, much of it is under 10 feet deep. As we rounded Cape May I had to head way out from shore in order to avoid the shoals that would surely put us aground. With the constantly shifting sands I found that the water depths really weren’t consistent with what he charts said should be there. At some points we had less than 10 feet under the keel in spite of being more than 5 miles from shore. It was a bit nerve wracking.  I have my depth finder zeroed to the bottom of the keel so when it says 2′ remaining, it means it.

As we sped down the coast I was also thrilled to past boat after boat that couldn’t keep up with Pandora. The same thing happened on the Delaware River as we steadily overtook and passed a number of boats making the same trip. Pandora generally can outrun most boats, and some much larger, when the winds are right. It’s nice to be finally have a boat that doesn’t always arrive last into a harbor.

Continuing up the Delaware on a broad reach we screamed along with a favorable tide making 9.5kts over the bottom. As we entered the Delaware bay the water turned the color of coffee, so different from the deep blue of the Atlantic.

Just before the canal we passed the Salem Point Nuclear Power plant. What an imposing structure! It made me happy to be down wind from all that steam. With a drive for “green” I wonder how many more of these will be popping up in the coming years. I am guessing that the fear of global warming and rising electrical rates will trump a fear of glowing in the dark. You can’t very well unplug those curling irons and espresso makers can you?  A girl’s (and guy) gotta live, right?  Makes you want to go out and get a hybrid Suburban, and a 60″ flat screen, doesn’t it?

By late morning we reached the canal, dropped the sails and headed into the calm waters of the C&D. The canal was built (dug?) back in the early 1800s and has gone through several transformations to bring it to it’s modern form of over 200’ wide and a controlling depth of over 30 ft. The current runs hard so we were pleased to hit it as it began to turn west, in the direction we wanted to go.

I had read in the cruising guide that the town dock in Chesapeake City offered free overnight dockage on a first come, first served basis so we decided to make the stop and spend the night.  Besides, the prospect of heading south to Annapolis against 25kts of south wind on the nose wasn’t appealing in the least.

The tiny harbor and town of Chesapeake City just off of the canal was about 3 miles short of other end of the C&D so we were able to cover much of the distance with the tide an we pulled up to the dock just after noon.  There’s a sand bar at the entrance to the harbor and we nearly bumped so I was very pleased that it wasn’t completely low tide.

The crusing guide said that the town was very quaint and friendly. Well, they weren’t lying. What a beautiful spot. This shot was taken from on board of the town green. Not a view that I see every day, I can tell you.

A few hours later we watched a bride and groom be photographed here.  Nice to know that Pandora (framed here in the gazebo) was in their shots.
We had dinner here overlooking the C&D.
This is the old town hall, now a stained glass studio.

The homes really look like a story book with one period home more quaint and well kept than the last. We had dinner at a great historic inn overlooking the Canal. There was even a wedding going on down at the town green to complete the picture.  You just can’t make this stuff up.

Cathy went for a long walk early today and found us a great local coffee shop where we had “the best breakfast in town”. Well, my omelet was bigger than my head and I scarfed it down without ceremony.  The conversation was great fun as Cathy and Denise swapped cop stories.  If I ever get arrested I hope that it’s one of Denise’s friends or at least someone else who sees the good side of humanity like she does.

But wait, there’s more to make this an ideal stop on a trip south!  Cathy was quick to point out that there was a knitting and fiber spinning store in town, the ideal lure to get Brenda to make the trip with me. Perfect!

Now we are headed toward Annapolis under power, passing through narrow channels lined with lovely homes and well tended green lawns.   The strong south wind has been replaced with a flat calm sunny day.
If I don’t sign up now I will miss the whole trip to Annapolis. I’ll be back for more updates soon I hope.

One last thing.  They changed the interface on Google Blogger and it gave me some fits.  If there are odd things going on with this post, it’s their fault.

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