Peter is a very lucky man
13 May 2005 | Annapolis to some place in NJ
May 12, 2005
Had things gone differently, he'd be overboard, or living alone on the boat.
He lied to me about the revised weather forecast, said we had plenty of time to get up to the Chesapeake & Delaware Canal before the wind turned foul, and when it did we'd be heading south and the wind would be behind us.
So I agreed to leave early this morning to get to Cape May, NJ where we would reconsider our options.
We were an hour and a half out of Annapolis before I heard the weather report. The winds were NOT 5 to 10 knots, freshening and shifting into the north in the afternoon. They were going to 10 to 20 knots out of the north in the MORNING. We left before 7 am, but had to stop for fuel on our way north. That, too was a bit of a much. The advertisement for the marina where we could conveniently get fuel showed a clean, nice, modern marina, hours 8 am to 5 pm. Hah! At 8:20 we motored into the marina entrance, found the ramshackle fuel dock by the fuel pumps on it (no sign), and radioed for someone to come out so we could tie up and get fuel. No answer. Radioed again. No answer. Drifting around hoping somebody would appear, we finally tied up to the dock and Peter got off to look for someone. He found a lady who didn't start work until 9 am, who said that the marina staff wouldn't turn on the radio (I guess so they wouldn't have to help boats coming in). We got our fuel and went on our way - but that cost us an hour.
We pushed hard and got to the C&D Canal and shelter from the north wind before noon, before the weather and seas got too bad. The canal is a long dredged channel, well protected, but with a very strong current - up to 5 knots. Fortunately, it was in our favor for the entire trip through, and we were spit out on the Delaware side like a watermelon seed.
The wind was behind us then, and though a bit blustery, not bad after the first hour or so. We made decent time down to Cape May, sluicing down in a little more than 4 hours. It turned quite cold just as we were approaching the Cape May canal, but with only a half hour 'til we could anchor it was tolerable.
Cape May is full of marinas, and they are the only places where the water depth seems to exceed five feet at low tide. It's low tide, we have about 2 feet under our hulls but it's well sheltered so we're not bouncing around.
Good luck meant the weather didn't turn nasty until we had gotten away from it. It could have been spot on the forecast, which would have meant a really nasty day, or being stuck out in the back of beyond. Horseshoes, the man has horseshoes.
May 13, 2005
The trip from Cape May, NJ to Sandy Hook is a tough one. Going outside means you can't change your mind if the weather goes bad because if the weather turns bad the entrances to the harbors are untenable. The weather report promised nasty, high winds from the north, absolutely the worst conditions for heading north. So Peter looked hard at the charts and decided that as twisty-turny as the "inside" route was, it was the only way we were going to get to Sandy Hook before Monday, and he really didn't want to leave the boat in Cape May.
So we filled the fuel tank and headed out. While at the fuel dock we spoke with a couple in a pretty big motor cruiser who were also heading up to Sandy Hook today. They're from Illinois doing a "circumnavigation" - down the Mississippi, across the Gulf of Mexico, around Florida, up the east coast, up the Hudson River into the canals to bring them to the Great Lakes, and then home to Illinois. It's a popular trip. They had heard the weather report but the fellow intended to go offshore and up. I told them that we were taking the inside route, partly because this little boat would be hammered badly, and couldn't possibly make it all the way up in a day. I also mentioned the problem with seeking shelter should conditions worsen. I guess when they got out there they realized it was nastier than they expected, because a couple hours later they came up behind us - they're much faster than us, so they must have turned around and gone back in at Cape May before heading up inside. At the time we were in a nasty, confused, and badly charted area that took all our concentration to get through, so we didn't talk on the radio with them (they draw more than we do, so they had to be even more careful than we were). And then they were on their way and out of range really quickly.
This inside route up the coast of NJ is twisting, confusing, shoaling, and slow. Lots of places where there is no wake allowed. Some places we only had about 2 feet of water under the hulls, which caused us to slow down drastically until the water deepened again. Of course, it was rare that the depth of water went over 20 feet. Usually it was 5 to 8 feet deep! It is very tiring having to concentrate constantly.
It's only 110 miles from Cape May to Sandy Hook. We motored for 11 hours and covered 70 miles. We have 40 miles to go, and I doubt that it's going to be any easier tomorrow. On the other hand, we will be where we want to be.
The north wind today blew cold, cold, cold. Peter tried to stay on the fly bridge all day, but he had to sneak down inside to get warm a few times. I was even colder, and when it was possible I steered from inside, but going through Atlantic City I had to be outside for the three bridges and the really difficult navigation. For the other difficult spots, one person had to be on the fly bridge and the other checking the charts inside, then going outside to tell the helmsman what to look for, what course to steer.
We were boarded by the Coast Guard this morning. Very nice people, and they go through the boat thoroughly, checking both engine compartments for leaks or oil in the bilge, checking the ownership documents, safety gear (flares, fire extinguishers, life jackets, etc.). So for a little more than half an hour we went nowhere. The good thing about it is that we get a receipt saying that we've passed inspection, so we shouldn't have to go through it again.
Peter says he doesn't plan on ever doing this inside route again. I think we'd have to do it three or four times before it was familiar enough that we didn't have to concentrate so intensely. Between the effort of navigating, and the cold, we are both pretty tired.
We have a heater on this boat, run by the generator. Tonight is the first night that I've insisted that we turn it on so we (I, really) can get warm. A down sleeping bag would be nice. Pocket warmers would also have been useful today.
Bundled up the way we've been, I have a most peculiar tan. The backs of my hands are tanned, but the rest of my arms have been covered up all this time. My big sunglasses have given me a reverse racoon tan - most peculiar.