18 June 2013 | Baltimore, MD, USA 39’16.66N 76’34.88W – Atlantic Highlands, NJ, USA 40’25.08N 74’01.30W via Sassafras River, DE, USA, Delaware City, DE, USA & Cape May, NJ, USA
As you read this open up your diary or scheduler. In it I’m sure that you’ll find heaps and heaps of appointments. Some will be painful, dentist appointment, some will be dull, back to back conference calls and some will be fun, skinful of beer and dancing naked on tables with friends (if you can schedule that). If you look at Ruffian’s diary for the past year it is simply a blank canvas and so empty it makes the empty vastness of space look like the heaving bar that you’re scheduled to be dancing on the tables of. Suddenly after leaving Baltimore it’s been rammed as we have had schedules to keep, tidal gates to catch and weather windows to get through.
The main window that we had to catch was at the top of the Delaware, heading south to Cape May. The problem with the Delaware River is that it’s not a piece of water that you can easily sail in at night as there are lights, unmarked shoals, unlit fish traps and shipping everywhere; the tide also rips up and down it so you’ve got to leave when the tide goes south and arrive before it starts heading north; there is also the issue of the weather, if the wind is in the south then you’re not going anywhere against the horrible short steep chop that it’ll kick up; to top it all there are no places of refuge, so if things go wrong then they go very wrong. All in all this wasn’t going to make the book entitled “Top Ten World Sailing Venues”.
With all the above in mind we’d sought opinion from other cruisers. They regaled stories of horseflies of such gargantuan proportions that they’d eat your entire arm with a single bite and waves so big and short that small countries have been swallowed up never to be seen again. We were worried and so we meticulously planned our trip from Baltimore making sure every window was caught. En route we stopped in spots that reminded us of the best of Devon whilst waiting for the right time to go.
With all these horror stories clouding our minds we were somewhat surprised that we found ourselves in Cape May after the most fabulous day sailing in sunshine with tide whisking us south, all our limbs were intact and Ruffian was still floating. After days of achieving deadlines and worrying about covering the 55 miles down the Delaware in a single tide; Boom; we’d made it.
Our day was so successful that we’d arrived early at the entrance to Cape May and this is where our stress started. There is a bridge at the entrance to the harbour that is only 55ft above the water. Our mast is 51ft high and so we knew things would be close, but as we arrived at high water things were going to be even closer. As we approached and went under the bridge there was a horrible moment where we thought our calculations were all wrong and we’d watch the mast come crashing down. After a heart stopping moment we cleared the bridge, the relief washed over us and the harbour opened up.
With our final window caught, the evening in Cape May was picture perfect. Clear skies, flat seas and the wind had died off to nothing. It was all about to change. We were about to get our next instalment in the story of shocking North American weather. In just minutes a thunderstorm had formed and was blasting through the anchorage.
Our anchor then started dragging and so we spent the next hour motoring into 40knots of wind, with lightening touching down on the land either side of Ruffian and thunder so load it deafened us. One benefit of this extreme weather was that the rain was so torrential that we’d not need to shower for at least a week and all this, of course, was performed in the usual storm clothing of shorts, t-shirts and bare feet. If only we’d been wearing more as that would have ticked the laundry job off the list too. We now feel qualified to join the ranks of other sailors with shocking stories of the transit of the Delaware and Cape May.
After days of catching tides it was time to relax and discover this historic town. Off we went to the sailing club to get some emails and a new weather forecast. With the forecast downloaded we suddenly had yet anther window to catch. If we didn’t leave Cape May now, right now. We’d not leave for at least another week. We were going to be New York bound. Iain was beside himself with excitement.
After a night at sea, where we were constantly looking behind us for thunderstorms, we entered New York harbour and headed south to an anchorage to ready ourselves for a big day of going through the big apple. The towering skyline was shrouded in mist and barely visible, but gave tantalising snippets of what we could expect. Fiona is of course taking all this in her stride but Iain is like a 9 year old super excited as to what NYC will bring. As we go to bed it feels like Christmas, there is a really exciting present outside just waiting to be unwrapped. It’s NYC, the city that never sleeps, we just hope that we’ll be able to sleep.
Brrrrr. Thermals, romps suits, scarves, oilies, and woolly hats. Is this sailing in June?
The Sassafras River could have been plucked straight out of Devon.
Ahhh yet another sunset in yet another sunning anchorage where the water is yet again super flat.
Ruffian turns into a motor boat for the trip through the C & D canal.
The sun is about to be extinguished for another day.
Cripes. That’ll be some tide. Super pleased we got the timing right for that one.
That looks fun. Spending the day bobbing about on a boat killing unsuspecting fishies.
Glamour glamour sailing down the Delaware. It doesn’t get much better.
Ohhhh that’s all a bit close. A bridge at 55ft and Ruffians mast at 51.
1, 2, 3, 4. I love the marine core. Oh no it’s the coastguard.
You’d not believe that we had 35 knots of winds, thunder and lightening just minutes before.
Our usual offshore setup enroute to New York Harbour.
What’s that cylindrical cloud all about? Does anyone have any advice?
Manhattan. Hopefully it’ll be more exciting the closer we get.