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Madcap Sailing
In and Out of Delaware Bay
01/07/2008/3:01 pm, Cape May

On Nancy's (Adventuress) advice, we stopped in Still Pond just below the Sassafras River. It was perfectly lovely - peaceful and pastoral - with a few houses tucked among the trees. For the first time on this trip, we heard some loud, mean talk from a boat near us. It didn't last too long but we were reminded how sound carries in quiet anchorages. We didn't get the dinghy down and in the water, but will certainly come back here next time to do some exploring.

In order to work with the current in the C&D (Chesapeake and Delaware) Canal, we got up and got going by 6am on Canada Day, July 1. The timing worked so well that we made 7 knots through the canal and were out of there by 11 o'clock. Once in the Delaware Bay, we watched the knotmeter read 8 and 9 knots for quite a while. Our plan had been to stop behind Reedy Island for the night and continue on to Cape May on Wednesday, but as we traveled we adjusted that plan - a couple of times.

First off, we decided to skip Reedy Island stop and take advantage of the current to get us further down the Bay. Cohansy River looked to be an interesting stop - pretty winding little river, controlling depths of 10 feet, little town further along that we could visit by dinghy. Well, it wasn't quite that good.

The tide was dropping and as we approached the green buoy at the entrance to the river, the depths dropped rapidly too. We went quickly from 10 to 8 to 6 feet and then we touched bottom. There was quite a current that threatened to push us onto a mudbank and we have had quite enough of that thank you, so we executed a rapid 3 point turn and got the heck out of there!!

Delaware Bay probably has great anchorages for shallow draft boats but there was nothing else we could consider so our only option at that point was to keep going and hope we wouldn't have to fight too much current at the bottom of the bay. The Bay has a reputation for giving a wicked ride if wind and current oppose each other, but we were lucky on both transits; no big or choppy waves. Our speed decreased and Jim started to closely examine the information we had on the Cape May Canal.

This canal cuts through the bottom tip of the Cape and takes boaters into Cape May harbour by the "back door". We hadn't taken it in the fall but it would save us an hour and get us in there before dark so we decided to try it. Once again, the water depths looked OK and the bridge height - the deciding factor for many boats - would be OK for us if we had things figured right.

Most fixed bridges are 65 feet - a few feet more or less depending on tide, but for some reason, the two bridges crossing this canal are only 55 feet high. The top of our mast is about 51 feet above the water and even though the tide was quite high, we figured we could make it. Going under bridges that have only a couple of feet to spare is always a heart stopping experience for us. Even though we figure it all out ahead of time it is still unnerving to look up and think for sure that the mast is going to hit that steel girder. When we move on through, we each breathe a sigh of relief. I can't imagine the experience of doing it when there are really only inches to spare.

A boat following us had to anchor and wait for the tide to fall after the mast touched the bridge as they were creeping forward, and last fall, a boat with a really high mast used water bags to tip itself over in order to clear the ICW bridges. There's some amazing footage of that out there in the ether somewhere. We're not up for either of those kinds of risks although we sure do admire the folks who meet them successfully.

There was plenty of room to anchor among the 4 or 5 other boats east of the Coast Guard Station in the harbour and I threw together a chicken and vegetable stirfry seasoned with soy sauce and ginger with a little Maple syrup to make it suitable for a Canada Day dinner. Last year at this time we were drinking champagne with Mary and Blair in Baie Eternite, Quebec! Happy Canada Day!!

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Up the Chesapeake - at a Snail's Pace
Beth - 33C in the shade
30/06/2008/9:53 am, Annapolis, Maryland

As Jim prepared to haul up the anchor on Sunday morning, the operation suddenly stopped. That handy dandy little switch on the windlass didn't work so he pulled the chain up the hard way. As we sailed out of the West River he took it apart to see what might be the problem. Sure enough, it was all corroded and would not be working again without replacement parts.

Despite Mike's call that it must be an omen - we were just not supposed to leave - we kept going ... back to Annapolis. A stop at the hardware store provided the parts and the problem was soon fixed. Because a severe thunderstorm was forecast for late afternoon, we decided to stay the night and enjoy one more day of Annapolis' hospitality. It was sweltering hot (33C in the shade) and the thunderstorm never did develop - unlike Saturday in Galesville where we had a real light show with gusts of strong winds.

We wandered the narrow streets of the city, (this picture is of the Alex Haley memorial on the waterfront) ate a light dinner on board while we watched - and rolled with - all the Sunday traffic in and out of the harbour. One more stop at Fawcett's - the nearby marine store - resulted in a purchase of a neat little gadget - a Find Me Spot. It's a small device that will allow us to send google earth postions, and emergency signals if necessary - giving GPS coordinates to search and rescue authorities.

After an absolutely calm night with no wind, rain or thunderstorm, we paid a visit to our neighbour - a Bayfield 40! As they came in we thought, "Is that Sapphire?" No, it was Adventuress - beautiful name - with Nancy and John aboard. She's a lovely boat and we had a great conversation with her Captains.

We're off to Still Pond on Monday and then on through the C&D Canal on Tuesday. That puts us into the Delaware Bay, and if weather and tide permit, we'll be in Cape May by Wednesday night. We're keeping our fingers crossed for great sailing by day and crabs on our dinner plates at night!

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Till We Meet Again
Beth - water 33C and air even warmer!
28/06/2008/9:02 pm, Galesville, West River, MD

We backtracked to Galesville in the West River on Saturday because we had a very important date.

It was only 10 nautical miles south and into a new anchorage; once more, we anchored ourselves next to Sapphire. A phone call later, Mike dinghied ashore for a pickup and before long Nancy and Jim (Solitaire) joined Kathy and Mike, Deb and Davey, Jim and me aboard Sapphire. The Sapphire, Solitaire and Madcap crews spent many happy days together in the Bahamas, one joyful dinner in Fernandina Beach and this would be our last gathering on this trip.

Nancy had a new drink to share - pineapple rum, orange juice, pineapple juice and cranberry juice - very pretty, very refreshing, very reminiscent of the Bahamas. After a couple of hours of breathless conversation and a few dips in the water, we headed ashore to Big Mary's at Pirate's Cove Marina for grouper sandwiches, crab cakes, and assorted other goodies. Too soon, the time came to say our goodbyes as Nancy and Jim headed off by car to their marina - what a change from waving goodbye to a dinghy! WHY didn't I take a picture??

We will miss these people as we continue to make our way north. They taught us things, shared their thoughts and ideas with us, commiserated with us, laughed with us and explored with us. Next season, they will be Bahamas bound once more while we spend a Canadian winter. The year after that though, we may just meet again in some sheltered cove with crystal clear water below us and blue, blue sky above.

One of the great joys of this year has been the friendships we've formed. We've met, exchanged boat cards; and shared food and stories with dozens of fine cruisers. And there are a handful we'll keep close to our hearts for all the years to come.

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