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Ballard Sailor

Transiting the Delaware Bay & Cape May

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May 1st - and while protestors ransacked our home city of Seattle we donned our foul weather gear and headed out into the Delaware River to see what the day was to bring. I had checked the buoy reports and most had winds at 10 to 12 knots at 210 degrees, which would put it on our Starboard side, not straight in front of us. It was also forecast to shift to the West as the day went on but along with this shift was the possibility of Thunder Showers. In this part of the world that not only means rain and lightning but gusts of winds much stronger than the forecast. With the current with us and the wind angle looking good we began to hope that making it all the way to Cape May would be the delivery today. With the Cohansey River off to port about 20 miles downriver we still had a bailout point.

As we passed the Ship John Shoal light the current really began to build and along with it came the chop - 3 foot steep river waves to bounce through but we were doing almost 9 knots over the bottom. In our little boat that motors at 5.5 knots having another 3.5 with you is HUGE! We stayed near the shipping channel throughout the voyage as this is where the outgoing current will be the strongest. The cruising guides tell you to take off across the flats to avoid the worst of the chop, but we felt the chop wasn’t prohibitive and the current sure was helping us along! We saw a couple of inbound and outbound freighters along the way but they were few and far between so we had no trouble with them.

As we approached the Miah Maul Shoal light what looked like a thunderhead began developing behind us, directly where the wind was coming from. At this point we are over halfway to Cape May and have given up our duck out at the Cohansey River. Fortunately for us, after about an hour of developing and looking menacing the thunderhead moved by behind us with nothing but small puffs of wind which helped us along as we had been motor sailing for the last 20 miles or so. That means we had the mainsail up catching some wind helping out the diesel motor that was still chugging along, giving us an extra little push from the wind.

Things settled down after the thunderhead passed us by and the sun came out giving us a great view of the mouth of the Delaware bay, the Fourteen Foot Bank Light and the Brandywine Shoal Light. Unfortunately for us though, it was at this point that the current began to switch on us and winds began to die down - at least the sun was out! We motored by the Brandywine Shoal Light at 4.5 knots, slowing working East in the 3 to 4’ ocean swell until we finally had enough sea room to cross the Brandywine shoal and turn our bow towards the Cape May Canal.

The calm waters of the canal were a relief after the confused chop of the Delaware Bay. We didn’t have a bad go of it, the Chop wasn’t dangerous or unbearable, but it was nice to be in settled waters again. The Cape May Canal is a 3 mile long “short cut” into Cape May harbor from the Delaware Bay side, cutting off something like 6 miles from going out and around the point and into the ocean side Cape May Inlet.

First going past the Cape May/Lewes Ferry, the Canal winds its’ way through marsh and residential homes and drops you into the harbor North of the old town and marinas. We wandered into the cove and found some diesel and ice before motoring back out to anchor off the Corinthian Yacht Club of Cape May. No one was home, the docks were not in yet but we had a nice walk on the beach before turning in for the night on anchor.

May 2nd dawned windy and cold with the current holding us broadside to the waves making for a bouncy awakening. Conditions didn’t look good for the 40 mile ocean passage from Cape May to Atlantic City so we looked for and found a nice old boatyard that allowed transients, Roseman’s Boat Yard, Circa 1867. No amenities but a very protected place to tie up, walk the town from and provision at the local grocery. Jennifer’s Nan lives nearby to Cape May so she went visiting while I caught up on some work that needed finishing.

A quiet night at the boat yard was followed by a beautiful day walking around Cape May, exploring the boardwalk and viewing the old victorian homes. Definitely a modern tourist trap today, but if you took some time and glanced at some old photographs you could begin to imagine the secluded, marshy little town it was over a 100 years ago. One more night at Roseman’s before we head out in the morning with winds forecast to be behind us and fog, but the fog is forecast to lift by 8am and with the sun out and wind behind us it should be a beautiful delivery to Atlantic City.
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East Coast Cruise for 2012