05/25/2008, Cape May, N.J.
Yesterday we did get our earliest start ever, 5:45 am!!! But it paid off as we had a following current all day down the remaining 25 miles of Delaware Bay. We were surprised at the huge number of boats out fishing in the Bay, literally hundreds of boats from 15' outboards to 55' sport fishermen. All were anchored across the bay, fishing. And we were also amazed at the crowds on the beaches as we passed round the cape through the Cape May Channel. Although it is not a frequently used route, this is the fourth time we have done it, and we have spoken to others who use it, so its not quite as nerve-wracking as the first time. And again as we entered the harbor from the ocean side, we were surrounded by boats, but it finally clicked... Memorial Day Weekend!!! We decided we would go into a marina, and luckily found an excellent slip when another boat just canceled. So we were safely and very comfortably tied to the docks of the South Jersey Marina by late afternoon. After our early start, we had a quiet night of it, and on Saturday, waiting for the north wind to give way to aoutherlies, we got out the bikes and went exploring. And we saw lots! Cape May has a very large and surprising section of elegant (and a few over-done) Victorian homes. We biked through the area, marvelling at the detailed paint jobs (the homes are also known as "Painted Ladies"). Then we headed out to see the lighthouse from shore side. There we saw the beach covered with all sizes and shapes, complete with ultra-light aircraft buzzing around and small planes towing "Eat at Joe's" type of signs. And along the Boardwalk the sights just got more strange. In the afternoon we took the bikes back to the boat and went grocery shopping. With some fresh seafood, and the fridge re-filled, the water tanks topped off, we're ready for a run up the coast tomorrow. The forecast is for southerlies, 15-20, an ideal wind that will get us to Barnegat by late afternoon. But we'll have to see what we'll do from there as the offshore forecast is not good. Last year we had a great overnight run from Barnegat to Block Island, but it doesn't look too good this year. But things could be worse than a trip to New York City! We'll see!
05/23/2008, Cohansey River
We left Chesapeake City this morning about 9 am. We were in no rush as we knew we would have the current with us through the canal, but it would be opposing us on Delaware Bay, so we decided to go only part way down and explore the Cohansey River on the east side of the bay. It is noted in only one cruising guide, and then only as a temporary anchorage when waiting for the current to switch (which we were). So we sailed slowly down the bay and reached the one and only navigation mark about mid-afternoon. With Seabird close behind, we nosed into the river and were surprised to see depths of up to 50 feet. The charts show no depths, but we met a sail boat about our size coming down, so we carried on up to the town of Greenwich, about 2 miles upstream. The incoming current pushed us quickly up the twisting course and we soon passed a marina, then another, both seeming to have passed their "best before" dates, but we anchored off the second and dinghied in. Ashore we found a mixture of boats, some being readied for launching and others that had seen their last cruise, in fact, more of the latter than the former. We finally found the marina office after finding two "Marina Office" signs with nothing inside. Inside the office we were clearly not expected, and woke the manager to ask if we could leave our dinghies (Seabird was with us) at his dock. We also got directions to the town, about 2 miles away, so we set out up the road. By the time we were nearing the town, we realized that we had not seen a single car! In the town we were very surprised to find many beautiful homes carefully maintained and going back to the days when Greenwich was the major port for the eastern part of Delaware Bay. BUt why the town was built 2 miles from the river, we never did understand. The town's decline clearly occurred many years ago so that now there is a museum (not open), a post office and a cafe open for breakfast and lunch only. That's it for Greenwich except for the beautiful homes and gardens. By the time we were walking back to the boat we met one car (they were lost) and one motorcycle who directed us back by a shorter route. And we saw the memorial to a group of citizens who followed Boston's lead and burned a ship-load of tea to protest British taxes. Although a quiet stop, and totally unexpected, we really enjoyed our tour. Tomorrow's forecast is for light winds, so we'll probably be motoring the remaining 20 miles to Cape May. There is a canal in from Delaware Bay that means boats can avoid the long rounding of the cape, but our mast is too tall for a couple of bridges over it, so that adds 15 miles through the unmarked Cape May Channel. But in calm weather it should not present a problem. But to catch the tide we'll have to make our earliest start yet, under way by 6:00 am!
05/22/2008, Chesapeake City, Md.
We left Broad Creek yesterday, headed for Annapolis, about 25 miles on up the Bay. Heading out Broad Creek we entered the mouth of the Choptank River, setting for Mitchner's book "Chesapeake". He actually lived on Broad Creek when writing it, and one tavern claims that he wrote the outline while in there. To cut off about five miles, we headed through Knapps Narrows, a narrow cutting between Tilghman Island and the mainland. Passing through, the bridge opened for us in response to our horn signal of one long and one short. Then we were out into the open bay. Because the forecast was for strong westerlies and our course was north-west, we thought about heading directly across the bay to be in the lee of the western shore, but decided against it. We set all sail and headed up towards Annapolis. The wind finally filled in south-west at a gentle 10-15 knots, so we decided to carry on as the next day's forecast would have us beating into 25 knot winds. We decided to get as far up the bay as possible to lessen today's slog. Passing under the twin suspension bridges connecting Maryland's eastern and western shores, we laid a course for Fairlee Creek. The forecast was also for 15-20 knot winds for the night, so Fairlee Creek's protection sounded good. By 4 pm we were off the creek and rounded up to drop the sails and motor in. The entrance (see photo) is very narrow, less than one boat length for us, and it has a swift current, but we had been here twice before so knew it. Seabird followed closely in. One of the cruising guides says you come so close to the beach that you can shake hands with someone on the beach! It's not quite that bad, but its close. Inside there is a large marina, but we chose to anchor, and chose a spot that was under a high cliff with tall trees that would give us protection from the westerly winds forecast for the night. And its protection gave us a nice quiet night. Mornings are a chilly affair these days, but our heater warms up the boat quickly. So this morning, while I was cooking breakfast, the cabin was soon warm. Chesapeake Bay is not noted for strong winds, but this week has been windy! Fortunately, we have been able to choose our days and with a couple of tough slogs to windward, have had excellent sailing. Outside the creek the wind was blowing its predicted 20 knots, and we were thankful that we had gotten so far up the bay yesterday. At this point it begins to narrow and turn north-east. So even in the strong winds the seas were fine and with our north-east course we were on a nice reach. Now we're into planning for Delaware Bay. No one would ever claim it to be good cruising grounds! It is wide but shallow, has lots of container ship traffic, strong tides and only one anchorage in its whole 55 miles. And the tides this week are not in our favour. The current is running out only until about 9 am, then runs in at up to 4 knots. Since we can only make 6 knots motoring, that would reduce us to 2 knots down the river. So we decided today to break up the trip. With the tides working for us, we can go from Cape May to Chesapeake Bay (or the reverse) in one day. But this time it will be three days. Today we came only as far as Chesapeake City, about 5 miles into the Canal. Its the former location of the western lock in the canal when they had locks. There is a tiny harbor with room for about six boats to anchor. We were there early so found a spot easily. And ashore we found a nicely restored waterfront with a few restaurants and lots of cutesy tourist shops in restored buildings, but that's about all. We also went through the canal museum which was interesting. By evening, we were surrounded by boats. In an anchorage that could comfortably (and safely) hold six boats, there were now 10 and very close. But with the complete protection, it was fine. On one side of us was Wanderer, a home-built ketch from Britain, and on the other a young couple with a huge dog in a 30' boat. A bit too much dog for me in a boat that size. We have seen Wanderer in the Bahamas over the past two winters, last time as we went together through the Whale Cay Cut in huge breaking swells. We chatted and laughed about our experiences. We each thought the other would be swamped for certain, but we both survived. Tomorrow we will head through the canal and about half way down Delaware Bay. We'll have the current with us in the canal, then fight it all the way down to Cohansey River, the only anchorage on the bay. It will probably be a motor-sailing day.
Dinner tonight was Crab Cakes! I use a combination of recipes and the result was fabulous.
1 pound lump crab meat, drained;
1 tsp Dijon mustard;
6 tbsp mayo;
1 egg, beaten;
1/4 cup chopped sweet onion;
1/4 cup fresh herbs;
parsley, dill, cilantro, basil, green onions (in any combination);
1 tsp Worchester sauce;
Marie Sharpe hot sauce (or substitute) to taste);
2 tsp lemon juice;
1 tsp Old Bay seasoning;
Fresh ground pepper;
Bread crumbs (we use Panko)
Butter and/or oil
Mix all ingredients together well. Add sufficient bread crumbs to hold together in cakes (I used about 1 cup). Form 8 cakes and dip in crumbs, both sides. Heat butter and/or oil in pan and cook over medium heat, about 4 minutes per side or until golden brown. Makes 8 cakes.
And now we have had soft-shelled, hard shelled and now crab cakes.. the Big Three!
05/20/2008, Broad Creek, Md.
Yes, we are Boat People! And have been so since our return to the US. When we arrived in Charleston, we went grocery shopping, and at the meat/fish counter, the man behind the counter said "You're boat people, aren't you?" we confessed that we were. He said, he could tell, but was very polite and asked us about our trip. A few days later in Wrightsville Beach in Motts Seafood, we were again asked "Are you on a boat?" She said that's why they kept a dinghy dock. Then in Ocracoke, again we were identified. In Onancock, we went into a deli that had some great cheese, and again at the counter "Are you on a boat?". And in Solomons, as we left the grocery store, a very kind man stopped us and said "Can I give you a drive back to your boat?" We don't know what it is, ws think we dress and act normally, but we obviously are different. But never a word to suggest anything but polite interest in our trip. We left Solomons in flat calm early Monday morning, but knew the forecast was for strong westerlies which would build during the morning. Our course was mostly north, so we hoped for a beam reach. Clearing Drum Point, the wind began to come up, and a few miles out we were putting two reefs in the main and were close-hauled and just able to make our waypoint. In 25 knots of wind with higher gusts, we romped up the bay with our speed a solid 6.5 knots until we reached the mouth of the Choptank, our destination. Bearing off to a close reach, we roared into the river mouth, then headed up Broad Creek, our destination. The eastern shore of the Chesapeake has so many opportunities for gunk-holing, that we could spend probably not just one season but many and still not explore them all. Up Broad Creek, we headed up San Domingo Creek to anchor just outside St Michaels, a great little town to visit. On the way up we passed Vice-President Dick Cheeny's home, complete with guard houses at the gate and on the water. Ashore, we headed into our favorite shops, starting with Big Al's Seafood where we bought some soft shelled crab, some Lump Crab Meat and some cooked crab. For dinner we sautéed the soft shelled crabs. With soft shells, you start with them just after molting when the new shell has not yet hardened. The details of cleaning are a bit gross (cutting off eyes, pulling out lungs, etc) but when the remainder are sauteed in butter, the result is delicious. We had been disappointed with our experience in Chrisfield, so were determined to try them again, and were not disappointed. This morning, we woke (as expected) to a soft rain. After yesterday's boisterous day and the forecast for today, we decided to sleep in. But when I hear "SAILBOAT, SAILBOAT! YOU'RE ON MY LINE! I CAN'T CRAB LIKE THIS!" I jumped out of bed. A crab fisherman had set his "Trot Line" behind our stern, then the wind shifted and we drifted over it. So at 5:45 am in a light drizzle, I was on deck hoisting anchor to clear his line!. Not a great start, but I was able to climb back into a warm bunk and drift off until 8:00 am! And after a leisurely breakfast of oranges, fried eggs, bacon and toast with fresh coffee, and reading yesterdays New York Times (they don't deliver on San Domingo Creek) we were ready for the day. We decided to head 10 miles east to see the town of Oxford, a small water town, one of many on the Choptank. In a light breeze that mostly opposed us, and occasionally rained on us, we motored up into the Tred Avon River to anchor off the town. Ashore we found a very pretty and very quiet town. With beautiful homes and more beautiful gardens, we wandered the streets until it was time to leave. We wanted to meet up with Seabird in a cove that would give us an early start to Annapolis tomorrow. So heading out the river, we pulled out the jib to catch the freshening breeze. But it continued to freshen until we were slogging our way hard to windward in a steady 25 knots! Chesapeake Bay is not noted for its wind, but we have seen lots this week, and all on our nose. After two hours of it, we pulled in a few miles short of our destination and called it a day. But to console ourselves, we had steamed crab in butter with cole slaw and potato salad and some of my St Michaels cheese with fruit for dessert! We're now starting to plot our descent of Delaware Bay for the weekend. With its strong tides, it is important not to be bucking them and not to get caught in a wind against tide situation. So we'll start watching. As of todat, Sunday looks promising. But for now, Annapolis is the target!
05/18/2008, Solomons, Md.
Yesterday (Saturday) we reluctantly left Onancock a bit late. We had agreed with Seabird to get an early start for Chrisfield because the forecast was for winds to pick up to 30 knots in the afternoon, and we had a 35 mile trip. But someone, who shall go nameless, set the alarm for 6:15 pm instead of 6:15 am! So when I stuck a bleary head up on deck at 7:30, Seabird was just heading out past us! So we quickly (or so we think of it) got organized and followed them out the Onancock Creek's three miles to where we could hoist our sails and head off for Chrisfield, our next stop. The winds sputtered for a while before deciding to go with the forecast and settled in to a nice 15 knot broad reach up the Tangier Sound to the entrance to Chrisfield. This area of the Chesapeake has a lot of very shallow water, so we had to be careful to sail by the buoys and not just head for our destination. But but early afternoon we were heading in to Chrisfield's totally enclosed boat basin. In this tiny basin we found a 300 slip marina, a coast guard station, a municipal dock and six crab processing plants. But also room to anchor. So we dropped our anchor beside Seabird and headed ashore. Chrisfield is no Onancock! But we didn't expect it to be, It is, and has been for centuries, a working harbour and town. Chesapeake crabs are its main source of income with tourism just beginning to have a secondary impact. The main street is more reminiscent of a western town as a result of a major fire a few years ago. And the token concessions to tourism focus on the crab industry with tours of the "sluffing houses" and restaurants that specialize in things such as "soft crab" where you eat the crab whole, shell and all. So we tried it... Hmmmm. Interesting. We also sampled Smith Island Cake, a speciality of the area. Smith Island is just offshore from Chrisfield and is another center for crabbing. The island has a population of about 100 and everyone is involved in the fishery. But they have a traditional cake that is ten thin layers, and with various fillings. We sampled a few, and can assure you they are worth the visit alone! As we waddled back to the boat, we discussed the weather and our next destination, Solomons. Solomons is on the western shore, about 40 miles further north. This part of the Chesapeake has few anchorages on either shore, so Solomons is a favorite stop when cruising up or down the Bay. And it has about 3,000 boats that make it home port. It has a number of creeks, mostly lined with marinas and boatyards. But there are a few spots that are quiet, and we dropped the anchor in mid-afternoon after another rousing sail in 15-20 knots of wind. Although a bit damp, we headed for shore to a very convenient supermarket to re-supply. Then back to tuck in below with the heater on and a chicken roasting in the oven!
05/16/2008, Oanacock, Va.
As planned, we left Portsmouth on Wednesday and headed out Norfolk's busy harbor. As the US Navy's primary east coast base, together with the commercial traffic of one of the east coast's busiest commercial harbors, there is always lots of traffic. And Wednesday was no exception. We hugged the green side of the channel until we came to the military section, where we shuttled across away from the aircraft carriers, over to the red side, then back as a commercial container carrier came down on us. But with the outgoing tide we were making 9 knots so were soon out of the harbor and running up the bay. Seabird had left with us and we were discussing destinations over the VHF radio, and finally decided on a small creek about 40 miles up off the Piankatank River. At the mouth, the town of Deltaville has a number of boatyards and marinas where many snowbirds like us leave their boats for the summer. It makes an easy trip south in the fall and a short return in Spring, so we have talked about it, but we have decided to head back to Maine for at least one more year. So last night we headed in past Deltaville up the river and ghosted in to the small creek on the Piankatank. Inside, in 6' of water, we found total seclusion except for a few lights twinkling out between the trees from the large homes lining the banks. But in the glass smooth water, we dropped anchor and settled in for a quiet night. Then yesterday (Thursday), we headed out with Seabird to cross the bay to the eastern shore and the town of Onancock. In the early days, Onancock was one of two creeks with sufficient water to create a natural harbor, so it flourished as a major port for two centuries. But as traffic and transportation improved, it began a slow decline. But today it still serves as a tiny port for gravel and oil for that section of Virginia. It has aged well, however, and the many fine homes and shops that flourished over time are still maintained so that it is a beautiful spot to visit. And best of all, we found a store that sold my favorite cheese, Morbier! Having pulled in there and walked ashore, we decided that it was worth two nights stay, so we settled in. Seabird with us also decided to stay. And the weather helped our decision. We had had a great sail over, about 30 miles north-east, but the forecast was for unsettled weather with possibility of strong thunderstorms, so we decided that we could endure another day of Onancock's charms. The day was spent reading, wandering the town and jusy thinking. In the evening the predicted storms arrived and we watched the sun set just to be hit with a strong squall, the first of a series through the night. But we survived and will, weather allowing, head for Crisfield, "Crab Capitol of the World" tomorrow.
05/13/2008, Tidewater Marina, Portsmouth, Va.
Yes, we're still here, but ready to leave in the morning. Monday morning dawned much like the last two, windy and cold, so we were in no hurry to get moving. By 10 am we were ready to return the rental car, so we headed out. On the way back Bruce and I stopped for a haircut, then walked back to the marina in the high winds. The streets are becoming more littered with branches, and on one street we saw a tree down across it. Back at the marina I went to the office to check up on the status of the heat exchanger. "That thing's no good!" was all I heard. Hmmmmm. So I trotted down to the boat to get the parts book for the part number, expecting that we were now in trouble. The mechanic called the distributor, and to my total shock and amazement, they had one in stock! The rest of the day was spent cleaning up and chatting with the growing fleet of boats that had by now filled the marina. The heat exchanger was installed today (Tuesday) and the engine temperature is now back to normal, and because the wind isn't supposed to drop until late in the day, we will now plan to head out into Chesapeake bay tomorrow morning.
Jeannie and Nancy were out for a walk and spoke to someone gardening. He showed them through his historic home. That's where the picture came from.
05/11/2008, Tidewater Marina, Portsmouth, Va.
Yes, we really saw a Monster truck Rally! On Friday the heat exchanger was removed and sent out for an acid wash. It will not be back until late Monday, so we're here until Tuesday, but it may not matter, as the weather is unbelievably bad. Friday was nice and we walked the waterfront area and did some boat chores. On Saturday we rented a car and decided to head over to Virginia Beach. On the way we stoped at a couple of marine stores for some supplies, then off to the beach! It was cold, windy and rainy, the beginning of the weather system. At one time Virginia Beach was a quiet beach community. Not now! We found what seemed to be the center of the town and parked and headed for the beach, where we found it jammed with people and monster trucks, the kind with huge tires that drive over regular cars. They were drag racing on the beach. They had made artificial dunes, and they would roar their engines, making an unbelievably deafening noise, then shoot off down the beach bouncing over these dunes. It was an organized event and to really see it you had to pay admission which we weren't about to do, but I did manage a few pictures. But we didn't last long, and with the cold wind, headed back to the car. Driving north, we found a nice cafe in a quieter part of town for a late lunch, then headed back to the marina. Just as we drove into the parking lot, the weather really hit with a squall with driving rain that pretty well soaked us before we were back aboard. But down below we turned on the Espar heater and were warm and dry in no time. Sunday morning was more windy still, with a steady 25 knots and gusts to 35 not unusual. But the marina has excellent protection, so it was not a problem. And their transient docks were filling up quickly! We decided to drive down to Currituck, a section of the Outer Banks that we can't get to by boat due to water depths. It was about 75 miles, but we had the day, and in the deteriorating weather, we had no other commitments. And it is a section of the banks that is much less developed than the southern sections. We toured a restored hunting lodge, and saw the Currituck Lighthouse, the last one of the group along the outer banks, and the only one we had not seen. On the way back to Portsmouth, we stopped at a grocery store and a couple of farm stands to re-stock. And like yesterday the rain held off until we were carrying the groceries down to the boat. But this time the squall was worse than before. Back at the boat, we saw Seabird with Bruce and Nancy Montgomery in the berth opposite us. We have cruised with them on and off both last year and this, so we we were delighted to see them. And we were quickly aboard for drinks and catching up. But then the next squall hit, and even in the total protection of the marina, the boat heeled over as if under full sail! We later learned that the boat next to us recorded a 64 knot gust! This is serious weather! The VHF radio weather advised that we were under a tornado watch, but luckily we saw nothing. Shortly after nine pm the wind swung to the north, signalling the front had passed and the tornado danger with it. But through the night it continued to howl!