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Ballard Sailor

Lavallette to Manasquan Inlet & the Manasquan River Yacht Club

Rating: 40 votes, 5.00 average.

In order to get out of Barnegat Bay at the North end you have to transit what is known as the Point Pleasant Canal which joins the town of Bay Head to the Manasquan Inlet. The guide books write this canal up as very turbulent and the only safe time to transit the 2 mile stretch is at slack high water. The turbulence comes from the fact that Barnegat bay has its’ 0.5’ tidal range and Manasquan inlet has a 5’ tidal range. Basically a 2 mile downhill run at low tide. Well slack high water was listed as being after 4pm but since we couldn’t wait that long we headed out of the marina a bit early and figured we could anchor at the mouth and wait for slack if things looked bad. So off we went, back out the narrow partially buoyed channel to the ICW and turned North again for Bay Head. There is one section, near the entrance to the canal that the books mention as narrow - well they ain’t kiddin’ it’s narrow. We immediately ran aground and couldn’t find the channel for a good 20 minutes. Back and forth we went until we thought we saw some dark water and slowly worked through it with no more than 0.5’ under the keel, but finally we made it to the mouth of the Canal.

There were a few Grand Banks power boats anchored waiting for the slack water, but that was 2 hours away! We stuck our nose into the canal and figured it wasn’t moving any more than 2 knots and the canal was easily 150’ wide so no problem turning around if we needed to, why not try it out? So in we went, moving at a nice 3 knots over the bottom but the turbulence wasn’t bad, just current. As we approached the first of the two bridges we would have to open, I just throttled back ‘til we were sitting still in the 2 knot current and called for a bridge opening. Once open we throttled up and on we went, no big deal.

The second bridge was funny, as we approached, still doing only 3 knots over the bottom the bridge tender called on the VHF to ask if we were going to call for an opening? Laughing I said “sure, but we’re going so slow I didn’t think it was time yet.” He soon starting opening and through we went without waiting at all and then all of sudden the canal ended and we were in the inlet. Wow, that wasn’t as bad as it was told to us, nothing like Deception Pass or Seymore or Dodd’s Narrows. I think Agate Pass even has more current than that. Oh well, all the hype for nothing, but again - we realize the world is different here.

So now we have to start looking for the Manasquan Yacht Club which offered us a spot for $50/night. Which seems steep until you consider the fact that the local marinas charge no less than $3/ft and some up to $4.50/ft and there are no good anchorages in the inlet that we can find. The Yacht Club it is, but first we had to find the unmarked channel into the yacht club. We tried the left, the right, in along the breakwater, nothing. We kept almost running aground. Finally I tried a spot were I left the channel marker to starboard and angled my way in towards the opening in the breakwater, this was it! 7’ all the way in and then an easy tie-up at the dock. Phew.

Soon the fleet captain, his wife and daughter came down to greet us and give us any information we needed, where to get diesel in the morning, where the ice was, and where the grocery was. He then looked around and said, “we’re going out in our boat for a few hours, here are my car keys, just put em’ under the mat when you get back.” Nice, Jennifer hopped to it and drove off to the grocery for provisions while I walked the dog and relaxed in the sun with my book and a beer. Who got the better deal here, eh? But someone has to watch the dog right? Well anyway, on my walk around the club I discovered a few 10’ prams out in the back that looked like smaller replicas of the Port Madison Pram. Cool lookin’ little boats that looked just like my childhood boat back home, just a bit smaller. When Jennifer got back and we returned the keys I asked about the Pram’s. “Oh, those things? That’s a Manasquan River Pram, been around since the 30’s. We race them all winter, only in the winter and we get great fleets out all throughout the winter season.” Crazy, another great idea! You can have your new fangled US Sailing one design boats all summer, but us sticklers, we’re gonna race these old prams all winter. I like the idea, PMYC watch out.

After dinner we decided to take a short walk and then retire early as we needed to catch the last of the ebb out of the inlet at 7am. Up the street we went and then worked our way out the inlet until we found the first bar and then wandered towards the water to check out the marinas - we had MacIntosh with us and the bar didn’t look like the type he would be welcome in. Then right in front of us on a barge by the seawall was the world’s largest Horseshoe Crab! Ugly little things if you’ve never seen one, but this one was huge - what in the world do they use it for?

We asked a local and she said it was used as a wading pool, but we couldn’t figure out how unless they turned it over somehow, weird. But while we were photographing the sand crab we noticed another bar down the way with an outside balcony so walked that way. Soon we were engrossed in conversation with two New Jersey blokes with an expense account and while Mac slept at our feet and kept the local women busy bending over to pet him these guys kept us talking til’ the wee hours. So much for a good night’s sleep before our 7am departure! Fun night though.
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East Coast Cruise for 2012