Out of the Chesapeake, back in Cape May
25 May 2012 | Cape May, New Jersey
After we left Norfolk 10 days ago, we journeyed the length of the Chesapeake, transited the C&D canal, and are now motoring down Delaware Bay to our anchorage at Cape May. We had expected to hoist our sails and, with the hoped-for combination of astern wind and gentle seas, enjoy our passage up the Bay. But it was not to be. Basically we have motored the entire distance except for 3 days of beating back and forth in pounding seas and strong northerlies from the York River up to Annapolis. The weather gods are against us, and we are humbled, once again.
Even though the sailing part has been decidedly subpar, we have enjoyed our stays. First of all, we anchored across the York River in Sarah Creek at Gloucester Point, rented a car, and explored both Yorktown and Jamestown, both of which we have never seen. We had an incredible time at Yorktown, made richer by a superb tour guide who was engaging and supremely knowledgeable about that time in our nation's history. For example, we learned what armaments both sides had and how far the shells flew, how the Americans and French dug trenches to enable a more protected approach to the British outlying strongholds, how the Yorktown battlefield was a golf course in the early part of the 20th century, and how the CCC, after the federal government purchased it during the Depression, identified and preserved its still visible fortifications. And most importantly for the survival of our nascent country, how much of a difference one or two days makes: the English fleet, having sailed from New York City to engage the French fleet, arrived too early at the mouth of the Chesapeake, gave up looking for the French and returned to NYC, opening up that bay to the establishment of a French blockade which ensured the Yorktown victory two months later.
Jamestown yielded similar feelings, though our tour guide was just OK. Of course, having grown up 20 miles north of Plymouth, MA, I was - and probably will be - always for the Pilgrims as the first European permanent settlers of this country, although Jamestown's settlement predated Plymouth's by 14 years. But it was a commercial venture from the start, not one of seeking religious freedom. Perhaps there's room for 2 first settlements in our part of the New World, for different reasons?
An interesting fact at Jamestown is the recent discovery, starting in 1994, of the actual footings of the original settlement. This is still an on-going process and areas within the stockade were roped off to permit continued archeological excavation of the original footings of buildings. A nearby museum, called the Archaearium, houses many of the artifacts discovered during the excavation process, including silver bodkins, food vessels/utensils, and a few skeletons. We had previously visited Williamsburg, the missing third of this most engaging early Americana triangle, so we bypassed it for now.
After a fairly rough trip up to Annapolis, we picked up a mooring near the town docks. During a seminar in this town 14 months previous, we had the pleasure of meeting Jeff and Jae who live in Annapolis and are almost ready to take off on their own sailing adventure. We enjoyed their company immensely then and this time, having a wonderful dinner at their house and using their laundry facilities (fellow cruisers know what other cruisers need!). We shared some of our thoughts for a successful voyage and, as it's been a wonderful trip, it was easy to be enthusiastic about the past 9 months.
Because we were in the home of Naval Academy, we also toured the grounds and, because it was - serendipitously for us - graduation week, we saw some events that only occur at this time of year. First of all, the plebes had to organize themselves to scale a 20+ foot obelisk which has been greased down in order to replace a cap with a hat, all part of rising to sophomore status. It was a hoot to see attempt after attempt to boost themselves from a multiple-layer plebe base up the obelisk, only to slide down again. Of course, given that they were being sprayed with water most of the time, one can understand how difficult a challenge it was. But, after 2 and ¼ hours, to loud cheers and cannon shots, they succeeded.
The next event, the following morning, was the color guard parade when all the companies of the junior class, with bands, march around at a particular field. Certain companies are awarded leadership honors based on how they performed in academic, athletic, and other areas. The backdrop for this was the Severn River where Navy midshipman were sailing back and forth, raising spinnakers when possible with the Navy colors displayed. It was very impressive.
After an overnight at a quiet anchorage just before the C&D canal, we spent yesterday afternoon and evening in Chesapeake City at the free (!) town dock, and departed at 6:30 this morning to catch the best tide going down Delaware Bay. We expect to be anchored by dinnertime tonight, and anticipate doing an overnight tomorrow - the first one since we arrived back in the US - up to Staten Island.
ps - the image included is that of some fascines at Yorktown, defensive pointed stakes aimed at the onrushing enemy.