Monthly Archives: September 2012

A visit to the Chesapeake Maritime Museum and off to Camp Letts.

In preparation for our trip I installed a Single Sideband radio for long distance communication last winter.   However, I have not been able to make it work in spite of a number of attempts and have not been able to identify where I went wrong.  However, my friend Rick on Altair came over to Pandora a few days ago and we worked together to find out what was wrong.  After a good bit of crawling around,  one by Rick in a VERY tight spot, we discovered that the problem was very simple, as is so often the case.   It seems that I had inadvertently put the antenna tuner cable on the incorrect fitting.  There are two and I had picked the wrong one.  Oops!  We moved it and now I am in business.  However, the whole SSB thing is a bit like voodoo to me and I am still struggling with the many, many buttons and settings.  I was able to call Rick on his boat yesterday and got a good signal.  Today I participated in a cruisers net for the first time and had some luck.  I had a considerable amount of interference but was able to announce myself and hear the moderator, sort of.  This particular net meets at 08:30 EST on 8.152 MH each morning and includes boats from all over.  The advantage of the SSB is that you can speak to others that may be thousands of miles away unlike the VHF which is only good to perhaps 15 miles out or line of sight for the antenna.   Being the social sort that I am, I can already see how I am going to really get into this whole deal of keeping in touch with friends this way.   Another value, and certainly the most important one, is being able to contact the the Coast Guard if we run into problems.   That and the ability to talk to the weather router, Chris Parker, prior to setting out offshore are good reasons to have an SSB.     I am quite excited to be involved and to have my new shiny call sign, WDG5288.

Today we head to Camp Letts on the Rhode River near Annapolis for the SSCA gam.  We are excited about seeing some of our friends and making new ones.  The great thing about this group is that nearly everyone who attends spend a good deal of time aboard and most will be headed south like us after the gam and boat show.   We will also be seeing some of our Corinthian friends there which will be nice too.

Yesterday I visited the Chesapeake Maritime Museum here in St Michaels.  They have a modest but well maintained collection of classic watercraft.

I particularly liked this one.  Martha is a good example of an easily driven hull.  As horsepower increased over the years, designers were less concerned about having a slippery hull shape.  However, now that the price of fuel is going up all the time, that attitude is changing as well.  Having said that, the working watercraft in this area are more slender than in other areas that I have been so the long and narrow boats are still very much a part of the scene down here. This is a wonderful lighthouse of the sort that used to be very common in this area.  This one was moved here years ago as it was replaced with an automated bouy.  At one time there were dozens of these on the bay.  They are called screw pile lighthouses due to the fact that they were secured in place by steel posts screwed into the bottom.  This approach worked very well due to the uniform sand and mud bottom (not many rocks) that the bay bottom is composed of.

The “signature” boat type from this area was, and still in some places, is the Chesapeake Bay Skipjack which was the standard type used to harvest oysters under sail.   The museum has an active rebuilding program to preserve these wonderful vessels.This is a good example of a bridge-design working craft style that came into being as sail was being phased out and the current motor powered vessels were coming in.  The hull shape is very similar to it’s sailing cousin but it’s powered by diesel.Here’s a shot of her from a distance.  Not sure that either this or the next shot do justice to her lovely lines.  However, I like the photos never the less.

I climbed to the top of the lighthouse and enjoyed the commanding view of the harbor.  This view is of the inner harbor.
This is the view in the other direction and is where we like to anchor.  Pandora’s mast is just sticking up behind the red roof to the right.St Michaels is such a great spot to visit I hated to leave today.  Off to Camp Letts to learn more about what to expect as we head south over the next few months from those who do this sort of thing all the time.  Perhaps I can also learn more about my SSB too.


St Michaels MD, a wonderful spot to visit.

It’s Wednesday and we are enjoying 0ur visit to St Michaels MD.   It’s nice to be able to spend more than a day exploring an area and being here for three days is a real treat.  Yesterday morning Brenda and I went for a walk through one of the historic areas and enjoyed taking pictures of some of the lovely homes.  It’s nice to see a neighborhood where everyone takes good care of their homes.

We like front porches and use ours in Essex CT on a regular basis.  However, this area takes porches to a whole new level.   I particularly love the palms on this porch. 

This porch is nicely color coordinated too. 

Brenda particularly liked this wreath.  She’s all about details.
I liked the use of the flower border near the driveway.  Not a big front porch but a nice looking home.
This might be our favorite home in the area.   We have taken photos of it in the past.  Love those columns. This While we were walking down near the waterfront, we spied this lovely launch based on a Crosby hull, a style that is often used as a yacht club launch in a simpler configuration.What beautiful varnish work.  You can easily imagine having a small cocktail party on this table aft.  Note the beautiful hand water pump.   It looks like the owner keeps the brass polished too. As we were headed through Kent Narrows on our way to St Michaels, the Globo Surf used a short cut that goes under the bay bridge, we were, as always, struck with how close the mast head comes to the bottom of the bridge.  All bridges on the ICW are supposed to be built to a minimum 65′ clearance.  This one is 67′ I am told but it really looked close to me.  Yikes!!!  So, how close is close?  Our mast is 63′ and with gear on top, we clear most bridges with less than two feet to spare.   Not a lot of margin of error.  As we approached the bridge at high tide, and one that was a bit higher than usual, we decided to stop and have lunch at a local eatery and wait for the tide to shift and get a bit lower.   We enjoyed lunch overlooking a busy waterway in Kent Narrows. Unlike up north, where dock space is more at a premium, there are plenty of spots where you can pull up and get free dockage while you eat lunch.  In this case, we docked for several hours while the tide went down a bit.   I always like shots of Pandora along side on a sunny day. There was also a commercial packer for crabs and oysters.  I was able to get into the oyster sorting room.  That’s a lot of oysters.  Nice guys too. I expect that these could end up most anywhere, perhaps in an eatery near you. Anchored in a little harbor in St Michaels, we spied this kayak man/dog combo. I can almost hear the dog saying “When will we be there, when will we be there.  Look a duck, a duck.  I love this!!!”Oh yea, how about a still life with flowers, wine and binoculars? Today we will continue to explore and I expect that Brenda will make another visit to the local yarn store.  Thursday we head over near Annapolis for the SSCA gam.   Thursday night kicks the three day event off with a dink raft-up cocktail party.  It will be great fun and we are really looking forward to the weekend event.  After that, off to the boat show.

A most beautiful spot, Queenstown Creek and a brush with a sand bank.

At the mouth of the Chester River and about 4 miles NE from Kent Narrows is a small harbor, Queenstown Creek.  The entrance is narrow and shallow but getting inside makes the nail biting worth it.   Actually, we almost didn’t make it as we ran hard aground on a sand bank just inside the mouth after bumping a few times on the way in.  The tide was running out and still about 90min from dead low which made any mistakes doubly problematic.

So, here we were, after a run back down the Chester River, at 6:00 pm and hard aground about 100 yards from our destination.  What’s  a traveler to do?  Hmm…

After a few futile attempts to back off of the sand bank, I did what any head scratching captain would do, I lowered the anchor the few feet to the bottom (probably not needed as we were firmly stuck anyway) and opened a beer.

A short while later another boat came in and took a slightly different path, with more water it seemed, and passed us.  Armed with the confidence of now half of a beer and the new knowledge of a better path, I put the boat in gear and powered forward.  Alas, we were off and into deeper water.    Free, free, free at last!!!

So, 100 yards later we were happily swinging at anchor as the sun set over the bay.  The view, perhaps the best yet.

Perhaps you are asking yourself why I would subject myself to such a tricky entrance knowing that the likelihood of running aground was great.  Since you asked, here’s why.  We began sailing, about 40 years ago, in small boats with shallow draft and I still love the secluded cozy anchorage from my catboat days. I am also hopelessly optimistic and am confident that after all low tides, there comes a high tide.   So, there you are, I have bared all.  Besides, running aground here is much different than where the bottom is hard and rocky.  It almost doesn’t matter.  Besides, it keeps slime off of the bottom of the keel.

This spot is really lovely and after dinner last evening, fillet mignon, farm fresh heirloom tomatoes, from a farm stand in Essex, with mozzarella and herbs and fresh boat-baked bread, we enjoyed the twilight from the cockpit.   We have been experimenting with baking peasant bread aboard from a recipe that we got from a baker in Old Saybrook near home.  He also sold us high gluten flower (we have 20 lbs on board).  We are making progress.  After dinner, when it was totally dark, Brenda and I climbed into the dink and drifted for a while looking up at the stars.  Not a lot of light pollution here.   The sight was really beautiful.  With the help of the program, Star Walk, on the i-pad we picked out a few stars and constellations.

A benefit of being an early riser is to see sights like this, with mist flowing over the water. 

I love the golden light early in the morning just before the sun comes up. The offending sand bank.  I didn’t clear it by quite enough.  Oh well.

We decided to cut our visit short in Chester Town yesterday so that we could avoid motoring back down the Chester River into the wind which was forecast to shift to the south and to take advantage of a late afternoon ebb tide.

However, prior to departing, we spent the morning  exploring the local streets and lovely architecture of the area.  Here are a few of our favorites.There is a very pretty board/brick walk along a portion of the river near the town dock. Brick has been a very popular building material here over the years. The owners of these two homes aren’t prisoners of tradition or perhaps they are just pissed off.  “I swear, if you don’t change the color of your home from that ghastly yellow, I will paint my home purple!”  So, there…“Betty Sue, how about a mint julep on the veranda?  Which one, you say?  Well, of course, I mean the west veranda.   I just can’t believe you need to ask, every time!”
Speaking of mint juleps and verandas.  It seems that everyone has a spot to sit and enjoy the sights.  This is a lovely old hotel in town, porches and all. They were advertising a fig daiquiri.  Is that a Southern drink?  Perhaps a Southern yuppie drink.
I do love porches and shade lined streets.
This fountain was recently restored.  Not so sure about the color, a really pale green, but it’s in a nice spot surrounded by magnolia trees.And, of course, yet another photo of Pandora.  This time, framed by the bowsprit of Sultana.
Well, that’s all for now.  In a few hours, when the tide will allow me to escape this very pretty spot, hopefully, we’ll head to St. Michaels, about 15 miles south from here.  We plan to stay put there for a few days prior to heading to the SSCA gam on Thursday.

Chestertown and what about those boat names?

It’s Sunday morning and the sun has just peaked over the horizon to begin what promises to be another beautiful day.  Yesterday we came up the river, all 20+ miles of it from Rock Hall with a strong southerly wind.  We did have to motor into it for about 8 miles prior to turning into the river.

The winds were running in the low 20’s so I was able to sail up the river under jib and then genoa alone.  While this photo of Pandora wasn’t taken yesterday, this is what it would have looked like had someone been along with us.  This shot was taken by Julie Palm of Altair took it when we were sailing with them coming out of the canal the other day. Coming up the river was very pastoral with farms lining both sides all the way up.   Some of the farms certainly looked like the farm wasn’t their primary business as the main houses were massive brick buildings with many chimneys. The current was swift and it shoaled up quickly on each side.  Staying in the middle of the channel and watching the buoys was a good idea.  Fish traps are common here too.  The concept is for a net to be stretched across the current to lead the fish into an enclosure as they try to swim around the net.  The birds perched on the poles much think that they work as they hang out waiting for a meal.  This was an interesting building as it appeared to be made up from two silos.  Pretty interesting design.  I don’t think that it was the main house on the property though as there was a main house nearby that was much larger.  As we arrived in town it seemed like everyone came out to greet us.  Very heartwarming.  We waved back only to later learn that it was Parent’s Weekend at Washington College.   Oh well…sA reproduction British Revenue Schooner was constructed here a number of years ago, the Sultana, and she gives day sails on the river.  She’s very pretty under way.   Some of the colors are a bit garish though.  Perhaps the British didn’t have Martha Stewart to advise them back in the 1700s.

And, even better looking in the early morning light today with some of the town’s historic buildings in the background.  I liked this motor-sailer that came in yesterday.  The current runs hard in the river and with the strong south wind yesterday Pandora didn’t know which way to lay on her anchor with the wind and current opposing.  Last night a cold front came through and the winds shifted from the south to the north.  These winds are supposed to hold for another day so we should have a fair breeze to head back down the river on Monday.

Coming up the river yesterday we were struck by some of the names of boats that were hailing one another on channel 16.   They went something like this…

“Incognito, Incognito, this is You are making me crazy calling, come in Incognito”.   They called several times and I was wondering if perhaps Ingonitio didn’t want to be found and found You are making me crazy a bit annoying.  Hearing that name repeatedly was bugging me.   Another one (and no, I am not making this up)was,  “Sail Away, Sail Away, this is Brave Heart’.  Were they telling Brave Heart what do?  Hard to say.  I could just imagine Sail Away heading in the other direction when they heard their name on the radio.  I wonder if they are able to sail together often or if they get separated?  Hmm…

Two other boats sailing in company that seemed to be a better match were Patience and Steadfast as well as Living the Dream and Just Chillin.  I guess that the addage “birds of a feather flock together” is true.  Well, at least when it comes to boat names.

However, fit together or not,  WHO IS ADVISING THESE PEOPLE on boat names?  I mean, really!!!   The other day a friend said that when they named their boat they said the name three times fast, as they would when calling on the radio, so that they could hear how it sounded.  That’s good advice.  Not sure that these folks got the memo.   Just guessing.

Today we have a few chores to do, including laundry.   The local architecture is lovely as many of the buildings date from the Revolutionary period.  In fact, we are planning to have afternoon tea at an old inn today.  More to come on that.


Enjoying Rock Hall MD and the Eastern Shore

It’s Friday morning and I am enjoying the sights and sounds on the water anchored near Rock Hall.   The anchorage is fairly small with room for perhaps a dozen boats.   While the harbor looks large, much of it is very shallow, less than 3′ deep, as one of the boats traveling with us for a few days discovered yesterday when they circled around to anchor and came up short on a shoal.  Not to worry though as the bottom is soft here so any groundings tend to be gentle and short lived.  Such a soft bottom does cause one to take chances such as yesterday when I cut across a shoal to take a shortcut into the harbor. The shoal was marked as 5′, a problem as we draw just under 6′.  However, we were a few hours from low tide and I gambled that there was enough water.  It was a bit of a nail biter as I logged depths under the keel of less than a foot for a good portion of the run.  We made it though.

Birdlife is abundant here too and we even saw a bald eagle yesterday, two actually, and that was a real treat.  The last time we saw one was last summer in Casco Bay Maine where they are fairly abundant.

Last evening Brenda and I were invited to dinner aboard Peregrine by our new friends Dave and Libby.   We had them over for dinner earlier in the week and they returned the favor.  They also invited the couple from Canada, Dave and Alex of Banyan.   Brenda contributed her first loaf of “boat made” bread.  We were striving for a loaf with lots of big holes and while it wasn’t perfect, it was very tasty.   To make it even better we concocted a mixture of olive oil, garlic, oil, salt, pepper and rosemary from our on board herb garden.   This “garden” lives in the dink while we are under way and on deck when in port.  There is actually a great spot just forward of the dodger where it fits perfectly.  We looked hard to find a pot that would fit there.   Perhaps I will title this photo “still life with rosemary and dorade vent.”  Does sound a bit high brow.  Well, we are on the Eastern Shore after all. 

The view from Pandora is lovely, especially early in the morning.  Check out the duck blind nestled into the point, in the reeds.  If you look carefully, you can see a heron standing on top of the blind.

It’s interesting to see the various types of watercraft in this area and how different they are compared to those we are used to seeing in our visits to Maine.  Here, the waters are more sheltered, and a lot more shallow.  This boat, with a husband and wife team, was dragging for something, perhaps oysters.  They went slowly by several time and then pulled up the dredge.   Not sure that they had success.In the area of “hey, let’s put a random photo on Bob’s blog” department, erosion is a real problem on the lands surrounding the bay.  In the Sassafras River yesterday we saw this staircase, a particularly elaborate  structure that someone had built so that they to get from their home, way up on the eroding bluff, down to their dock.   I wonder how tough it was to get the permits?   It’s safe to say that it’s good example of “form following function.”    I wonder how long this will last after a few winter storms.  Hopefully, the pilings are driven down really, really deep.   Do those who grant approvals consider aesthetics?  Perhaps not. Today we will do a bit of exploring in Rock Hall and perhaps head up to Chestertown, which we hear is very pretty.    We still have a week until the SSCA gam near Annapolis.  As it’s not much more than 15 miles from here to Annapolis, we have plenty of time to do some sightseeing.

Well, typing away here isn’t giving me much of an opportunity to see the sights so I’ll sign off for now.

Pandora survives the big blow.

Tuesday afternoon and evening lived up to it’s billing with big winds plenty of rain and dramatic wind shifts.  Happily, we were well secured on our anchor and in protected waters snug in Chesapeake City.

As the day progressed, the sky became darker and it was pretty obvious that things were going to get interesting.  As it hadn’t really begun raining, Brenda and I decided to go for a walk around town.   The tide was nearly high and it was really obvious that the storm was driving extra water up the bay as the water level kept going up and up.   This photo shows just how high it got and how the surrounding parking lots near the water were completely under water.

Pretty bold to leave cars in this area if you ask me. I took this photo from the cockpit of Pandora at high tide on Tuesday afternoon.  You can see just how high the tide was.The same view the next morning at low tide.  A bit different and the normal tide range for this part of the bay is only a few feet.  

Just before the most interesting part of the storm kicked in, we were ashore and decided to stop for some iced tea.  While we were sitting at the counter, someone said “I was looking at the weather radar and we should be in for quite a show in about 15 minutes.”   Brenda and I looked at each other, paid the check and bolted for the dink which was just outside on the dock.  We weren’t looking forward to getting caught in the rain.

The wind was really picking up and about 5 minutes after we arrived to Pandora, wow, the heavens opened up.   It was really impressive.  Happily, I had plenty of scope out so we didn’t drag even a little bit.  One of our neighbors did drag and had to reset their anchor though.

This is Pandora nearly alone in the small harbor at Chesapeake City.  The view in the other direction is less pastural as it’s the town.  However, a pretty nice view in every direction.

First thing on Wednesday we went for another walk down town to take in the gardens and lovely homes.  Brenda particularly liked these window boxes. Plenty of nice gardens in town. With the tiny lots it is easy to lavish loads of attention on their gardens.  One advantage of small property.    However, this one should probably be described as diminutive as small may overstate it. This home had particularly nice gardens.

On Wednesday we headed about 15 miles to the Sassafras River, enjoying a broad reach with a fresh north wind under genoa alone.   We were joined by Perigrine, a Catalina 41 from South Carolina and Banyan from Halifax.

Along the way the bay is lined with lovely farms and lots of green grass. 

All of us got together on Altair, the big sister to Pandora, the SAGA 48 for drinks.   We swapped stories and compared notes on where to visit in the Chesapeake.    Interestingly, of the 4 couples, three of us were headed to the SSCA gam next week and all are headed south.  The couple on Banyan, the boat from Halifax, had sold their house and about everything in it to move aboard.   They are headed out for a year and will then decide if they are going to head back.  Destination, Trinidad.

All of this talk makes our plans seem like a day sail.  Hmm..

Today we are headed to Rock Hall on the Eastern Shore to do some sightseeing.   Two of the boats from last evening are going too so it will be fun to catch up again.  Unfortunately, a motor boat ride all the way.



Chesapeake City, a milestone of sorts.

It’s Tuesday morning here in Chesapeake City and everyone is waiting for the “big blow” that is expected to arrive mid day today.  For days everyone has been focused on getting to a good harbor to hole up in when today’s forecasted weather  with strong winds and gale force gusts is expected to arrive.  The little harbor here is a great spot, well protected and good holding in mud.

For me, Chesapeake City is more than that, it’s the true beginning of our trip, new life and the fulfillment of a dream that I have sought to achieve for many years.   While the beginning of the Intra Coastal Waterway is actually in Norfolk VA, for me it begins here.   The drudgery of slogging down the coast of NJ is behind us and the fun of gunk-holing and exploring is about to begin.

As my friend Keith said when he called me to check in last night, “from now on you don’t have to run long days or go outside unless you make that choice”.  We are in protected waters, meeting new friends, renewing friendships and just enjoying living aboard and cruising.

I may be repeating myself when I say that this trip is something that I have been focused on ever since we took our first summer trip aboard TAO, a 20′ Cape Cod catboat and our first boat.  When we did our first cruise, a two week run up Long Island Sound and back from Black Rock CT, I found myself feeling depressed a week into our two week trip as I realized that our time aboard was half over and that I would have to head back to work very soon.  As that very first trip aboard TAO came to and end, I said to Brenda that someday I hoped to be in a position to continue on and not to need to cut the trip short to head back to work after such a short time aboard.

I was jealous of those that I perceived as doing such a journey and devoured all sorts of books about voyaging aboard small boats.   Frankly, I really never could grasp how we would ever be able to do this before we were too old to handle the rigors of sailing long distances.  However, amazingly, here we are in Chesapeake City and doing what I have always dreamed of.

So often the phrase, “living the dream” is used to describe what we are doing now and for me that’s exactly what it is.  I have to admit that I am having a little difficulty accepting the fact that we are really on our way, but here we are and we are doing it.  “Bob, you shouldn’t be having so much fun.  Zapp, take that” as lightning strikes me down.”  Perhaps it’s the ghosts of my Puritanical heritage speaking.

So, why Chesapeake City?  Why this small town on the D&C Canal?   Why is this place so important to me?

When we found and purchased Pandora some five years ago in Annapolis, we enjoyed some sailing in the area prior to my running Pandora up to CT and as I brought her up with crew (Brenda has not traditionally done long legs with me), we stopped for a night here.  All and all, I have visited here three times, each time that I have transited the canal.

So, being here with Brenda is the realization of a dream on a number of levels.  Beyond being a sort of “gateway” to cruising, it’s also having her here with me to experience our trip every step of the way instead of arriving by car to spend part of the trip together.  It’s being fully immersed in the cruising lifestyle and spending time with others who are doing, and enjoying, the same.

Over the last several years, as I prepared Pandora, and Brenda, for this trip, we were fortunate to join a cruising group, the Seven Seas Cruising Association, SSCA.  This group, with 10,000+ members from all over the world, is comprised primarily of individuals that spend a lot of time aboard.  A good number  live full time on their boats, but many, like us, split our time between homes ashore and afloat… something that seems right to me.

I would credit members of this group, perhaps more than any other influence, in leading Brenda to say, about a year ago, “it’s time.”

If you hang out with the yacht club set, a group that I thoroughly enjoy spending time with, you will meet sailors that really like boats and being on the water.  What you will not get is a lot of couples that are willing to make a boat their home beyond their one or two week annual cruise.  Frankly, I don’t blame them at all as their boats are not really set up for cruising.  So many don’t even have dodgers or any sort of canvas over the cockpit to shelter them from the sun or rain.   When it rains they get wet.  When the sun shines, they get sunburned.   Their sailing is focused locally, in races or weekend nights on the boat and social time at the club.   It’s a great life and one that we enjoyed for years.  However, now we are into something completely different.

So, why did Brenda come to the conclusion a year ago that she would do this trip with me?  There are many factors, not the least of which is that, in general, she found that most of the women she has who cruise are “just like me.”  No dreadlocks and they care about personal hygiene, dress nicely and complain about crappy weather and bouts of seasickness as much as she does.  They have been very encouraging to her and sympathetic to her fears.  “Brenda, it will be fine.  You will love it, the Bahamas are beautiful.  Let me tell you about this wonderful place that we visited…. You are going to have a great time. It will be great fun, trust me.”

Last evening we enjoyed dinner with Rick and Julie who cruise a good part of the year aboard their SAGA 48, Altair.   Frank and Julie have been sailing together for years in a succession of boats.   Their sailing has taken them to the Bahamas, Caribbean some some eight times and, to date, a trip around the world.    When asked about seasickness, both Julie and Frank confessed that they generally feel a bit off, or worse, their first day at sea but that they get over it fairly quickly.

When asked what their plans are for this season, they said that they still aren’t sure exactly where they will be after the Caribbean.  Perhaps they will head to Panama and into the Pacific as there are some places that they want to visit again or for the first time.   I’d say that Frank and Julie are indeed “living the dream.”  They have found a way to see the world together and that’s what I am hoping to do with Brenda.  Well, at least see a little corner of the world, the Bahamas.  Well, I shouldn’t get ahead of myself on this one.  One step at a time, Bob.

While Frank and Julie are exploring the world together, others, like our friends Bob and Ginnie aboard The Abby, have taken a somewhat different approach.  They too have a boat capable of sailing wherever the wish.  When they began cruising extensively about ten years ago, they had loose plans to begin in the Bahamas for a season, move on to the Caribbean and perhaps beyond.  However, for them, they fell in love with the Bahamas and are now going back for the 8th season.   They feel no compulsion to move on as they have found their place, their world to explore and are content to split their time with summer cruises in New England and winters in the Bahamas along with a generous amount of time ashore as they spend their time ashore in their Connecticut home.

As I have often remarked, I want to do whatever I can do to help make this trip fun for us, especially for Brenda, or there won’t be a second trip.   So, how’s it going?  Perhaps you’d better ask Brenda.  However, it’s my blog and from my perspective, it’s going swimmingly, thank you.  We’ve been underway for a week now, the toughest leg, that nasty Jersey Coast run, is behind us and now it’s up to us to choose when to go and when to stay.  Yes, we have a long way to go to get to Florida where we will leave Pandora for a month while we head north to enjoy the holidays with our family, but there’s plenty of time between now and mid December, when we return home for the holidays, to enjoy our time together aboard Pandora.   For me, I am really looking forward to making the most of it with Brenda.

So, now that I have spilled my guts on the why’s of our trip, let me close with a brief bit of what.  Chesepeak City is a very tiny and quaint harbor just off of a busy commercial waterway shared by cruisers and ships alike.  Shortly after we arrived here yesterday I looked up and saw a real behemoth glide silently by.  Man, that’s a big boat.  I guess that the Breton fisherman’s prayer, “O God, thy sea is so great and my boat is so small” applies to some more than others. 

The town is very scenic and even has a really good knitting/weaving store.   Don’t think that I didn’t stoop to saying “Brenda, you really should visit Chesapeake City as there is a great yarn store!” as an additional lure to get here here.   Doesn’t she look like a happy knitter?A very pretty and well kept main street.  I particularly like the brick buildings.  Notice the details in this cornice. What a great building to house a gallery.  And the dominant highway bridge is always in evidence. Nice detail work on the well kept buildings.  The one on the end is a restaurant where we had dinner last night overlooking the canal with our friends.Today, in spite of the crappy weather, we hope to go for a walk and visit the canal museum which chronicles the history of the canal and area.  Besides, the town wouldn’t be here, or would we, if it weren’t for the canal.

Cape May to Chesapeake City aboard Pandora

It’s Monday morning and we are headed up the Delaware River under power.  There is a light wind from the north and the seas are very calm.   Our destination for today is Chesapeake City at the far end of the ‘Chesapeake and Delaware Canal, a very nice little anchorage at the very top of Chesapeake Bay.

Yesterday we made a 30km run, mostly under power, from Atlantic City to Cape May.  I am afraid that there isn’t much to say except that the seas were calm and it was uneventful.  Leaving AC in full daylight gave us a good look at just how built up the place is.   As much of the surrounding coastline has relatively little development so this place sticks out like a sore thumb.  

It was interesting to visit Cape May as I had not been there for nearly 30 years.  The last time I was there was when I was bringing my second boat, a Cape Cod catboat, Sappho, back from Lewis DL, just across the Delaware River, back to New Jersey.  Wow, that was a long time ago.  While I have been past Cape May a number of times since, I have always been on a delivery and didn’t stop for the night.

The anchorage is off of the Coast Guard station and there is plenty of room to drop a hook.  Interestingly, of the nearly a dozen boats that were anchored, about half were from Canada.  Cape May is a good spot to wait for a favorable tide and wind to head up the Delaware River to the C&D canal.

We took the dink into town, nearly two miles away, and had a drink at a local seafood joint on the harbor.   The view was very nice, with pleasure and fishing boats in abundance.  

After that we motored further up the harbor and spied a row of boat houses, one of which, built in the 20s, was owned by the sister of a weaver Brenda knows.  We had been told to look her up when we were in town so we did.  

Sdina and her husband Fergie,  were indeed having cocktails out on the deck of the boathouse and when Brenda shouted, “are you Sdina?”, she was and were instantly to join them.    It seems that Sdina is nearly 90 and looks like she is at least 15-20 years younger.  How do she do it?   She was drinking red wine.   Hmm… We enjoyed a beer with them as the sun set over the harbor.  It was a very nice visit. Sdina is Swedish and the boathouse had been decorated as one would expect given her heritage.  She said that IKEA has done very well by them.

We headed back to Pandora and enjoyed a terrific dinner of fajitas, a nice way to end the day.  We turned in early as we had to leave really early today to head up the river.

This morning we set the alarm for 04:45 as the tide was to turn in our favor in the Delaware River at 05:30 and it’s a good 50km up to the canal.  There are a number of ways to head up the Delaware from Cape May, one that takes you very close to shore around Cape May point through some unmarked shoals, some of which are only 2-4′ deep and another, longer route, that involves heading out to sea about 6km prior to turning to the north to head up the river.

In spite of the fact that some of my friends, and it seems, a number of the other boats that left around the same time I did, take the shorter, more tricky way, Brenda and I decided to play it safe and headed out the long way.   Even that way involves going over some really shallow places, some less than 10′ deep, the shoals seemed easier to avoid.

While my charts are only a few years old, I did find that some pareticularly shallow areas had migrated somewhat and I found myself going over some scary spots that were less than 15′ deep where the chart showed nearly 30′.   That has been my experience each time I have made this run.  Besides, it was dark for about an hour after we left port and seeing the water swirl in the really shallow places would have been impossible in the dark.  I have a real aversion to running aground, especially miles from land where there should be plenty of water.

We were well out to sea when the sun came up.  I am always moved by seeing the sunrise over the water.  It makes you feel really insignificant. 

The amount of water that is moving up and down the river with each turn of the tide is amazing.  Here we are, going about 7kts through the water and yet our over the bottom speed is over 8.5kts and further up stream, greater than 9.5kts.  As the river is over 15km wide at the mouth, that’s a lot of water moving along with us.

With this amount of water running up and down the river twice each day,  the bottom contours change constantly and shoaling continues all the way up the river so dredging is a constant effort.  When they pump the sand out of the channel, they deposit it on either side and that means that there is even greater shoaling on either side of the channel.  Pleasure boats (meaning small, like us) head up the channel just outside of the channel to avoid the ships like this one but not so far out as to risk the shoals.  There’s plenty of shipping to avoid and at over 600′ long, it is a very good idea to stay out of the way of guys like this.  

I shudder at the thought of coming face to face with this bow wave in the middle of the night. This one is interesting as it’s actually a large barge with a wedge shaped cut in the stern where a tug can fit inside to push it along.  When they are secured inside that cut, the tug and barge behave as one ship.  A particularly dramatic feature along the way is the Salem nuclear power plant.   It is hard to believe just how big this thing is.  That’s a lot of concrete.  Let’s hope that the steam coming out of the cooling tower is just water vapor.   However, not much of a carbon footprint.   

I liked this lifting barge.   It says that it’s home ported in NY but it’s hard to imagine this boat making it’s way down the coast.  Perhaps they lift it on another bigger lifting boat.  For inquiring minds to ponder. 

On the big ships they usually sport this sort of orange life boat on the stern.  The idea is to be able to easily, and quickly, get the boat in the water.  Imagine being “launched” by this lifeboat as the ship is being pounded by waves?  The seats in these lifeboats have tubular metal harnesses like an amusement park ride that come down over your shoulders.  That’s a thrill ride experience that I’d be happy to avoid. There are a number of interesting lighthouses along the river.  I didn’t get too close but you get the idea. I like bridges and this new style is cropping up all over.  This one on the C&D requires a lot less maintenance as there is nothing to paint I think.

This older style one has a nice sweep to the approach. Well, we finally made it into the anchorage at Chesepeake City and I am just finishing up this post.  When we were in the middle of the river the data coverage on the cell phone wasn’t good enough to I wasn’t able to upload the photos and finish it up.

We are anchored and plan to go ashore and explore.  Actually, Brenda has her sights set on a weaving/knitting store in town that is particularly inviting.

Stay tuned for more action and suspense as we plan to stay here for the next two days.  Heavy winds coming on Tuesday that we want to avoid.

Ta, Ta. for now.

Sandy Hook to Atlantic City in a day (under sail, yahoo!!)

It’s 07:00 on Sunday morning and the sun has just come up here in Atlantic City.   Who would expect that there would be a very nice anchorage in what is perhaps the tackiest place in the US, but there is.

Having said that, the lights on the casinos last evening were quite a sight and Brenda and I enjoyed an “adult beverage” in the cockpit while watching the lights blink and glare all around us.  I have passed AC at night while making passage but have never been in here myself.

The sunrise this morning was spectacular and as the sun rose in the east the buildings all around us were bathed in a warm glow promising another terrific day aboard Pandora.  The NW breezes are still with us and are expected to last the day which we need to finish our run to Cape May.

Getting photos like these is one of the advantages of awaking early.  Happily, early for me is now 06:00 instead of 04:00 that I was plagued with for the last few weeks before we left on our voyage.   Even the casinos look warm in the early light.  It’s hard to believe how many massive buildings are crammed into such a small space. Much of the area around us is a general anchorage that can easily hold a dozen boats or perhaps more.   Believe it or not, this entire complex is a single hotel, Harrahs.  I guess that millions have to be lost there to keep such a massive facility in business.   As they say, “the house always wins in the end”.

You never forget that the ocean is nearby as nestled in the midst of all of this glitter is the sobering presence of the Coast Guard station.   Personally, it’s the sight of this that pleases me most. Yesterday was indeed a wonderful run.  Covering 80 miles in a single day under sail isn’t something that I do every day and to make an 11.5 hour run with the engine on for less than two hours was a treat.   I am certain that yesterday was one of the longest runs uninterrupted by motoring that I have ever had and certainly the longest for Brenda.  As fun as it was, I was tired when we reached AC at dusk last evening.  I was apprehensive about making the approach during dusk as I didn’t really know what to expect even though the charts seemed clear enough.   The buildings along the beach in AC are imposing to be sure. The shoals all along the southern coast of NJ go way out and as we approached AC I had to stay well off to avoid being in water less than 20′ deep.   As I took this photo we were about to take down the sails and motor up the channel.  As the sands shift constantly only the outer most approach buoys are even on the chart.

Happily, the winds held up all day and did so from a great direction so for nearly the entire trip from Sandy Hook to the entrance to AC we had the wind behind the beam, making for a brisk ride.   Pandora really excels in these conditions making better than 8kts with 15 apparent just aft of the beam.  The fastest speed for us yesterday was better than 9kts but most of the time we sailed in the high 7s and low 8ts.    There were a few hours where the winds were nearly behind us which cost us some speed so our overall speed for the day was 6.6 including the nasty hour that we slogged from Atlantic Highlands to the tip of Sandy Hook.

All and all, a very satisfactory performance for the day and I even caught a brief glimpse of a pod of dolphins twice, my first for the trip.

Today we have a short 30 mile run to Cape May where we will wait until the north winds shift to the south to make our run up the Delaware.   We expect to meet up with our friends on Blue Highway again as they made the run there yesterday from Atlantic Highlands, choosing to wait till later in the day and make the entire run to Cape May in a single overnight run.

Just for fun, if you want a slightly different take on the day from Brenda, check out her post from yesterday, September 15th.  Hmm….  Glad that she is such a good sport and that the warm blue waters of the Bahamas beckon.

Well, my coffee is getting cold so I’ll sign off now.  Besides, they just sounded reveille from the Coast Guard station so that’s a sure sign that the day has begun and what a great day it is.

Blasting down the Jersey coast aboard Pandora

It’s 10:30 on Saturday morning and we are about 5 miles from shore and less than 10 miles from Manasquan inlet headed to Atlantic City or Cape May.   I am sitting in the cockpit with the laptop typing away plein air this post.   Brenda’s taking a nap down below and the auto pilot is cranking away as move along down the coast. The winds are as forecast, blowing from the North West at 15-20kts.  The boat is handling beautifully and blasting along on a broad reach at between 7 and 8 knots.  In gusts she really goes, beating 8 kts.  I wish that I had cleaned the bottom again as I expect that we would be doing even better.   There’s very little traffic with just one other sailboat nearby.

We left Atlantic Highlands at 08:00 this morning motoring into a very snotty 20kt NW wind to get up to the tip of Sandy Hook where we could put up the sails and bear off into the ocean.  Brenda was none too happy with the conditions which were not pleasant as heavy spray was coming over the bow as we motored directly into the wind.  The fact that we were one of the first boats to leave didn’t make her feel particularly confident in our plans.

However, after settling onto our course south for our 75-100 mile run, I was able to put out the genoa and full main which really got us going.  To sail on such a great point of sail for hours and hours at between 7 & 8kts isn’t something that happens every day.    The good news is that while the wind is blowing nearly 20 kts in gusts, we never see apparent wind much above the mid teens as we are going along with the wind, a very pleasant way to go.

The forecast calls for another day of these conditions and then it is supposed to shift to the south and blow fairly hard for a few days.   The weather router specifically noted that Tuesday is going to be nasty so recommended that we find a safe place to anchor while that blows through.

Our plan is to head to Atlantic City or Cape May, spend the night and then head up the Delaware Bay when the wind shifts to the south.

After that, into the Delaware and Chesapeake Canal and on to Chesapeake City to ride out the nasty winds on Tuesday.     As no post is complete without a few photos, here you go

Nice shot of the ensign.  Makes me proud to be an American.  

What a perfect day to be making passage.  We are indeed off to a great start for our voyage.    These shots don’t begin to do justice to the beautiful view.   

Before I get too full of myself about how fast Pandora is I should show this shot of a 100′ yacht that just ran past us at nearly 30kts.  Makes you wonder about his carbon footprint.  I for one feel pretty good that my autopilot, laptop, phones and all the other electronic stuff aboard are being charged by my solar panels that are cranking away and delivering power to spare.  

Finally, thanks also for your nice e-mail notes.  Please leave comments on the blog too.