A Travellerspoint blog

Cape May, NJ

The End of the Beginning

sunny 82 °F

We hung around Delaware City for a couple of days. Rainy and windy, sunny and windy, always windy, approaching gale force windy, a good reason to have hung around Delaware City. We didn't do very much; there's not very much to do here and even if there were, it wasn't the right weather to do it. I cleaned the boat which was badly needed; Carol did some laundry, mostly needed. We went from having the A/C on in 80o temperatures one evening to having the heater on in 40o temperatures the next morning. Go figure! Even Carol found comfort in the covering blankets. Whoever is in charge of weather must also be in charge of the IRS; both seem to be equally dysfunctional. The wind has made the roughest part of the trip here at the dock. When we arrived we were the last boat on the dock; the dock extending a good way past us. In the interim the dock completely filled up, some boats rafted to others, all boaters looking for some necessary shelter from the wind.

The wind blew the last Honey Locust flower petals from the trees, many of which landed on the water where we were. Seeing all the white petals floating on the water was pretty, looking like some sort of Oriental religious ceremony conducted for our sole pleasure. In Delaware City we had our first exposure to fairly big tides, in this case over 6-ft. I expect that we will see more of this as we head north.

The question of the hour, the only question, really, was do we leave on Sunday or do we wait until Monday, Memorial Day. The answer came down to inertia: Monday, because it was tough getting going on Sunday. Carol called the marina and changed our arrival date and the marina guy told Carol that we had made a good choice; it was still windy and ugly down there. Staying in Delaware City seemed to be a collective, hive-like decision; the entire marina stayed put, electing for Monday. So, to celebrate we all got together Sunday evening and told tales of brave Ulysses, drank some "grog" and had a good time. The reality of shared experience seems to make it easy for boaters to find common ground, enjoying each others' company, the social process lubricated by alcohol and the fact that all the women seem to get to know each other from the showers or the laundry room or the grocery stores.

Monday morning at first light, well before sun-up, there was a jail break. Boats, large and small, sail and power, exited the canal and headed down the river towards the Delaware Bay, most bound for Cape May, at least one turning New Jersey's corner out into the North Atlantic, headed for New York. Tim, the owner-dockmaster was there to help us off at 0455, the tidal current being uncooperative and unconducive to us shoving off by ourselves. We were the second boat underway that morning. The canal was reasonably well lighted from the street lamps along the walkway. We crept out of the canal, there's a shallow spot right at the entrance, and turned the bow downstream. The combined river current and tidal flow grabbed the boat and hurled it south, going from 2 knots to 8 knots almost in an instant, kind of fast considering that I really couldn't tell what color the channel lights were .... that's Carol's job. I had always thought that exiting a place we had entered should be easy, just do the reverse. It doesn't seem to work like that; visual cues and references all seem different from another angle.

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I was barely awake, brain turned on but not processing much data. I saw a light array ahead that I knew was a tug .... good; I didn't see the huge barge it was pushing .... bad. It looked like we were on a converging course downstream .... good. As we got closer, there was enough light to see that the tug and barge were headed straight across our bow .... bad. Turned out not to be a problem .... good, because I wasn't thinking very clearly .... bad.

There were several similar lighthouses marking progress down, or up, the Bay. This is the Miah Maull lighthouse, fairly far down, toward the mouth of the Bay. It looked to be all steel and had a full complement of birds guarding the railings. It's really hard getting a level picture on a moving boat in the telephoto mode. I don't drink underway, it just appears so.

The reason we left so early was to try to capture as much of the current as we could until the tide turned. It was a little like surfing, at one point the boat going more than 9.5 kts, silly fast. It lasted for about 3.5 hours, about the time that the tidal flow reversed and the Delaware River, narrow, became the Delaware Bay, wide. All the motor vessels that left after us passed us along the way and at some point I decided the push the engine a little harder for more speed. The trip from dock to dock was over 55 nm and we did it in 8 hours flat, something I would not have believed possible. There was a fair amount of big stuff moving, most coming up river, not a concern but interesting to see. The fun started when we entered the Cape May Canal. It was Memorial Day, a holiday, and a very nice day, sunny, bright and warm. Every boat was out and every boat was committed to going full throttle, me first, not quite as bad as our first trip up the New River in Ft. Lauderdale, but definitely a contender. I have taken a markdown on the entire population of New Jersey boaters.

The marina is OK but was a little hard to find, sort of around, down and behind. It has just about the nicest showers we have ever seen, marina, hotel, wherever and I've stayed in some really nice hotels overseas. We may extend our stay here just so I can get naked and shower some more. This row of houses, kinda' interesting, is our view over the stern.

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We are in the same "alley" as the fuel dock and a boat pulled in with this guy on the deck: a mako shark, about 7-ft. long and 300-lb. After fueling up the took the shark to the dock to display it hanging by the tail, of course, also weighing it. Each guy on the boat posed with the beastie for many pictures. It looked just like the dock scene in Jaws except it was real. Sport fishing seems to be an important part of the water scene here in Cape May.

We will have to do some work here; it's time for the 100-hr. engine maintenance schedule which includes the much hated motor mount bolts .... AGAIN!!! Mostly, it's the three F's: fuel, fluids and filters .... topping off, replacing and refreshing. Fortunately, this work does not take a lot of time or effort; a couple of hours here and there gets things done with plenty of time for doing not very much. I had been a little cavalier in my management of spare parts knowing that I should be able to replenish along the way. When I dug through trying to find a fuel filter there were exactly zero on board, a bad number for a part that has the life expectancy of a kleenex. There's a Yanmar dealer just a short walk away so we have been busily getting plenty of replacements for the rest of the trip.

Carol has been preparing for the rest of the trip .... in her own ineffable way, which has nothing to do with the boat. As we head north there will be less crab available, now a staple of her diet. So she selected a restaurant nearby, The Lobster House, to adjust her palate to more boreal waters by having her first lobster, probably anticipating these as the new staple of her diet. We tried some raw oysters from the Delaware Bay and they were very good, almost as good as the ones from the Chesapeake Bay but with a slightly saltier flavor. Probably a 1B to the southern 1A.

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Cape May, NJ, is a resort town, growing around the same time as Newport, RI and the north shore of Long Island. The marina is on a small island, not too much larger than our 18.8 acres, about a mile or so from town. The walk to town, down Washington St. is delightful. Most of the houses along the way were fairly modest as we started the walk and grew larger and more elaborate as we neared town. Per the ubiquitous signs, most dated from about the 1880's and ran through the 1920's, regular houses trimmed out, Victorians and some Craftsman style houses. Carol liked the white house, which was for sale, but not enough, she said, to leave our mountains. A good thing as it was way too expensive. There were many homes for sale, most listed by Sotheby's, not a low ticket dealer. Downtown was pretty neat, the old main street closed off and made into a pedestrian mall with the usual assortment of shops and restaurants, but very nicely done. The beach, sort of the raison d' etre for the town, was spectacular, at least as nice as Miami's, and maybe natural, a claim the Miami cannot make since that beach was trucked in after years of erosion. It was hard to tell how long the beach and boardwalk are, probably a couple of miles, maybe more.

Life on the boat is by its very nature secluded and solitary, not so many folks around. It seems strange, sometimes, to be among so many people as there were today, on a weekend. The last shot, the yellow building, is the original fire department for Cape May, now a museum adjacent to a huge new complex.

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For the first time this trip we find ourselves waiting for the weather to make the two night passage to eastern Long Island. I had wanted to leave Thursday which would have had us arriving early Saturday. But, that arrival would have put us on the cusp of some very high winds in a new and uncertain anchorage in Lake Montauk .... which may or may not have any usable mooring balls, or if they are usable may not be available. Plus the wind, from the right direction for a change, SW, would have been a minimum of 15-kts with lots of wind well over 20-kts and a little over 30-kts. Our boat is too light and, as a consequence, too much to handle under those conditions for that long a passage. So, I bailed. However, in the interim, at least eight sailboats have come and gone while we sat and stayed. The water at the beach today was very calm, not a whitecap to be seen. There's a fine line between mature judgement and wimping out and I hope I'm closer to the former than the latter but I'm beginning to wonder. I'm looking forward to being in the islands off New England but I am also having trouble mustering any enthusiasm for the passage necessary to be there. Don't know why that is. We've waited in Marathon, FL for weeks to get to the Bahamas so I guess a week in Cape May is not a big deal. Monday doesn't look perfect but, 48-hrs. out, it looks like it might be good enough.

Posted by sailziveli 12:18 Archived in USA Tagged boats boating Comments (0)

Delaware City, DE

overcast 74 °F

We decided to head to Delaware City, on the Delaware River. That location should put us in reach of Cape May, NJ. The transit included the 14 mile long Chesapeake-Delaware Canal. I thought that the tide in the canal might be against us part of the way, slowing us down, so we chose to leave very early, giving us more time. I was up before 0530 and was very groggy, not having slept well the night before. It seemed a good idea to check the engine first thing lest I forget it later. Up went the hatch. Looked at the coolant .... good. Pulled the dipstick to check the oil .... good. Closed everything up and noticed as I headed to my next task that I still had 18-in. of dipstick in my hand. Ooooops! Not a good plan. We were underway by 0615, the sky overcast. the temperature comfortable, and with a haze on the water. Rather than restrict visibility, for some reason, that particular hazy quality of light made it much easier to see things on the water like buoys. Regardless, we turned on the navigation lights just as a caution.

We made good time, taking the same 1-1/2 hours for the reverse trip back to the Bay although at that point it seems to be more the Susquehanna River than the Chesapeake Bay. We had about 8 miles when we turned north, pretty straightforward, a wide deep channel suitable for commercial traffic which left us plenty of room as there was no commercial traffic. There were a couple of long, straight stretches that had lighted ranges, different from my USN days in the 60's when they were painted placards with lines down the center that had to be brought into alignment. The lights were very bright and visible at a distance of well over 6 miles.We passed close enough to one to get a decent look at the light .... a sealed parabolic reflector, probably no more that 6~8-in. in diameter. The light source had to be LED's, based on the quality of the light. I was amazed that something so small was visible at such a distance.

The trip to the canal was quite bucolic and quite pleasant. There were some houses along the way, but not so many and not so big; some barns and an occasional silo made it clear that this was the country not the suburbs. Most of the riverfront land was undeveloped, a startling change from many places where every inch of waterfront has been overrun, auctioned off and built up. There was a sole exception, something Carol and I had never seen in all our on water miles: a modular home park with great water views. And why not? There must have been several hundred of these looking out over the river/bay.

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We hit the canal about 0930 and, sure enough, the tide was slowing us down, way down to about 4.5 knots. The canal is an interesting piece of American history about which I had never heard until we started planning this trip. It first opened in 1829 after 65 years of discussion, planning and financial failure. The object was to get from Philadelphia to Baltimore more quickly and the canal absolutely aces that, knocking well over 200 miles off the trip. I just don't have the sense of economic history that makes that time saving an important goal.

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In its current iteration, the better part of two centuries on, it's a piece of work: 14-miles long, 450-ft. wide, 40~50-ft. deep. The canal is for ocean going vessels, maybe not the very largest, but pretty big. There are six bridges that span the canal. The run of the mill ICW bridge has 65-ft. of vertical clearance; all these bridges have a minimum of 135-ft. The first picture is the westernmost bridge at Chesapeake City. I suppose it is a bit of an artifact, probably built before the days of CAD/CAM, Excel and even calculators. Imagine a civil engineer building something with no more computing power than a slide rule and it remains standing. Of course, the Roman Aqueduct still stands and it predates even slide rules. The other bridge is a very old Conrail bridge; the center span goes up and down with cables, pulleys and huge concrete counterweights in the end towers. 135-ft. is about 2.5 times our mast clearance and neither Carol nor I thought that there was that much space above the mast going under the Conrail bridge. One of the other bridges seemed older and three were fairly contemporary including one that was a concrete suspension bridge similar to the ones in Charleston, SC and Brunswick, GA.

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We didn't pass any large vessels in the canal but we did have to dodge three large tugs with huge barges. Lots of room, lots of depth, no problems although the prop wash and wake ricocheted back and forth across the width of the canal making for a bumpy ride. For this reason, almost the entire length of both canal banks is lined with a rock layer to prevent erosion. Except for the Chesapeake City area the canal was largely undeveloped. It was a pretty and peaceful ride. There is some tree that grows in profusion, mile after mile, along the canal banks that was in full flower; I haven't yet figured out what tree it is but they added some beauty to the passage. I had speculated that when we got to the canal's midpoint that the tide would start to work for us and at 6.8 miles that exact thing happened and we made much better speed on the last leg.

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We exited the canal into the Delaware River and turned north into the tide and the river's current. The last mile was a long one, or at least a slow one. The marina is down a long, narrow channel but the water depth is pretty good. I'm not sure how we turn the boat around to head back to the channel but that's a problem for another day and the Annapolis Book of Seamanship. This marina has one point of distinction: it's the only one we have seen with landscaping and gardening. We noticed these rogue Iris out a starboard port, unexpected along the bank and so close to the water. Iris being Carol's favorite flower, although she much prefers purple ones, she lobbied for their inclusion in the blog. Big pressure on a captain to keep the crew in line.

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After a cloudy, overcast day our arrival at the marina was a shock: the sun came out, it got hot and we were beset with flies and flesh eating gnats, miniature winged piranha, which were having us for an after luncheon treat. We had thought that we had left these gnats behind in Brunswick, GA. Their appearance here was not a welcome surprise since they pretty much make the cockpit off limits. I have been worried about being too cold ... today Carol hinted about the air conditioning. Big Change!

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After several futile hours on the internet and blank stares from some local people I finally cracked and confirmed the code: the trees are Honey Locusts and they are ubiquitous in the area. I was told by Tim at the marina that they are thick along this street and are, now, at the end of their flowering season. A couple of weeks ago he said that the fragrance was almost overpowering. These are really big trees; we planted one at our first house in Chicago but it bore nothing in common with these giants. Maybe it just needed more years to grow; but, had it gotten this large it would have dwarfed the house.

Wednesday afternoon got quite warm by some people's standards. When I returned to the boat from a walk about Carol was splayed out on the settee, gasping, like a fish out of water, sweating, suffering and florid from the 82o "heat." In an act of mercy I turned on the A/C so that the Nordic Princess would not melt into a small puddle, dribble down to the bilge, and be pumped overboard. I thought that the weather felt pretty nice.

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The marina is quite different in one other aspect, there is only one long floating dock along the canal. There is a very nice walk way along the bank of the canal that ends up in the center of a very small town, one main street, one side with buildings, the other having a park that abuts the canal, a very nice effect. The promenade ends at this former and, according to the signs, future renovated and restored hotel dating from about 1830. Hard to see how that will make economic sense, but commercial real estate is not my field.

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I was unable to find when the town was established but it must have been a busy place by the early 1800's since the Chesapeake-Delaware Canal was first proposed in the 1760's These two houses positively reeked of 18-something, perhaps earlier, and look like they were designed by the same guy. The two churches that I saw dated to 1848, Episcopal, and 1852, Catholic.

Tuesday, 05/21/13, was the 49th day of the trip, seven weeks on the water. It has not gone as I planned it at the kitchen table in Spring Creek; in fact the only trip we made as laid out was from Cape Charles to Tangier Island. Everything else has been ad hoc. For all that the trip has gone well enough. I haven't shot Carol .... no guns on board; she hasn't left me .... no car. We had only two dates assigned to any part of the trip: (1) if we make it to Maine, don't arrive much before July 1st; (2) be back in a safe harbor by early August for hurricane season. Without any conscious plan, we have been drawing out the Chesapeake portion of the trip waiting on better, i.e. warmer, weather. My axiom in Chicago was that the weather was never consistently nice until after Memorial Day. We will get to Long Island after Memorial Day and that's probably an OK thing.

It's looking like I made a bad call on the weather. We laid over in Delaware City to avoid some weather that was inconvenient. We are now faced with weather that is too bad to head down the Delaware River to the Bay and then into Cape May, NJ. Carol, who can get sea sick sitting at the dock, would not appreciate the prospect of high winds over shallow water with big, choppy waves. The weather forecast has been moving the onset ever earlier on Friday, 05/24/13, the day I had thought to leave, from the evening to the early afternoon, closing the window and raising the stakes. After 66 years I'm pretty well used to doing stupid things but still aspire to avoid premeditated stupid things. So, it looks like we will spend the weekend here in Delaware City and wait for the weather to break fair.

Posted by sailziveli 09:34 Archived in USA Tagged boats boating Comments (0)

Havre de Grace, MD

sunny 75 °F

We decided to leave Baltimore on Saturday, not having much more there that we wanted to do. Baltimore, like many major eastern US cities has a little Italy. Carol selected an Italian restaurant for Friday evening at which she wanted to eat and that completed her agenda. Mercifully for the crab population in the bay, the Italians don't seem to have any red sauce covered culinary analogues to crab cakes. The marina started filling up on Friday, going from 1/4 full to, maybe 1/2 full. The Preakness was being run on Saturday and that was a big draw; Univ. of Maryland was having a graduation and that was also getting lots of people into town. Plus, the rates went up on the weekend so we left town.

We had thought to go to St, Michaels, a place we had skipped in order to organize the trip to Washington. But, that's south of Annapolis and I didn't want to retrace that much water. Jay had suggested Harve de Grace, as a candidate, allowing that he had not visited the town in 25 years. There are marinas there, they're pretty cheap, so with no better plan in mind we took off for that town since it is north and in the general direction of our travel.

The trip sort of typified a frustration about cruising in the Chesapeake. We were 7-1/2 hours on the water; two were to get from Baltimore to the Bay; 1-1/2 were to get from the Bay to Havre de Grace. We only spent 4 actual hours of covering miles that were new or we would not have to travel again. Almost every place off the Bay requires a hour to reach, most require more. I guess that the silver lining is that the days a getting quite long so this lateral motion doesn't completely kill progress.

The trip was perfectly boring and uneventful and that was fine with us having had a full measure of eventful in the prior five years. As we left the inner harbor we saw two shells, one a crew of one, the other of four. I figured that at 5.5 knots we would overtake both in short order. Not so! Both pulled away from us with the single oarsman leaving the crew of four far behind .... us too.

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We decided to take a shortcut, exiting the main shipping channel in favor of going "off road." When we had made the course change there was an information buoy that labeled the area, "crab lane." I expected the worst but there weren't so many crab traps. Along the way we saw these two lighthouses that aren't lighthouses. The taller, black and white structure is a range light, which, when aligned with another light tells ships if they are in the center of a channel. The other is obviously an old lighthouse but I could not find a lighthouse on the chart. Turns out that it was converted to the range light that complements the black and white structure to create the Craighill Range, the taller light being the upper range and the lighthouse the lower range. This is a range that we had used on the trip to Baltimore from Annapolis. The time in the Chesapeake Bay has been interesting in this sense: we have never been in a place that has such a large population of navigational aids and markers. Regardless of where a boat is on the water there always seems to be some aid visible to the naked eye. The issue becomes not finding a reference point but figuring out what reference point you're seeing because there are so many.

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Baltimore seems to me to be the end of the Bay. Above the city the Bay is more of a river and not a very big one for all that, much less than one mile from bank to bank with the whole area getting progressively shallower. Saturday afternoon the wind picked up a little and there were lots of boats out sailing, nowhere to go, just enjoying the wind. This was one of the boats that we saw, an older boat, probably a yawl. It seemed unusual that a boat like that would have kevlar sails, very pricy, and a spinnaker, but there it was. For all of the money invested in sails, a lot of money, the boat was not going very fast but looked very good regardless.

We arrived at Havre de Grace in the early afternoon, motoring all the way, the last 8 miles or so with a tide pushing us along toward the town up a narrow and tortuous channel. When we were settled I just had to look up the name to see what it means: Haven of Grace. The area is fairly sheltered so I got the haven part; I was not so sure about the grace unless it was discovered in dire circumstances or under divine providence. Turns out that it was named after Le Havre, France an interesting choice since the French were mainly much farther north and this area was assiduously British. After the war General Lafayette visited the place several times and commented that it reminded him of Le Havre in France which was originally named Le Havre de Grace. Improbably, from 200 years on, in 1789 the town was a contender for the site of the nation's permanent capital.

Plan! What plan??? We originally intended to stay the weekend and leave Monday but decided to attack a small boat problem: the strataglass in the center panel of the canvas surround, the most critical view, had become badly mottled making it almost opaque. The trip started with that issue as annoying and it recently became a problem. In bad weather the panel stays down but the boat pilot becomes partially blinded, not a good thing since the obstructed view is where we look for crab pots. So, we found a canvas guy here in town who was willing to replace the "glass" on short notice, a sufficient reason to stay another day.

On Tuesday, we're off for Delaware City. There will be some very windy weather on Wednesday and Thursday and the cruising guide says that the Delaware Bay can be difficult in those circumstances. So, we'll ride it out in shelter.

Posted by sailziveli 20:37 Archived in USA Tagged boats boating Comments (0)

Baltimore, MD

sunny 69 °F

It was cold, this morning, down in the 40's again. Every nice day has been followed by several extremely cool days and nights, struggling to break 50o at night and 60o during the day. The struggle has rarely been successful.

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It was Monday, and we had to get underway, having been banished from Annapolis. Carol had taken a liking to crabcakes at a particular restaurant. She would say, "I'll fix you breakfast and then I'll take a walk," the walk being to get and eat a crabcake. Or, "I'll fix you lunch and then I'll take a walk," the walk ending at the same place for the same reason; ditto for dinner. She ate so many crabcakes that the town was running out of inventory, sending tourist spending down 11.3% for the week we were there. The city council passed an emergency measure exiling us from the town, so we left.

We saw a couple of neat boats along the way. The first is at least a "go fast" boat, maybe a racing boat. It had kevlar sails, a squared off main, and a small bow sprit to handle spinnakers. There were several people in the cockpit so my guess is that it's a USNA boat that went out very early to return in time for a regular day. The second boat is a schooner that we saw in the Patapsco River, close to the Baltimore inner harbor. In a two masted schooner the rear mast is at least as tall, but usually taller, that the foremast. I imagine that at some earlier time we would have seen these in the dozens between Annapolis and Baltimore.

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The trip was pretty simple: go down the Severn River, turn left for an hour or two; then turn left again at the Patapsco River and go until you cannot go any farther. We passed these two lighthouses just north of the Bay Bridge. It seemed that the upper portion of both structures were brickwork. The white topped one, Baltimore Lighthouse, was, at one point, powered by a small nuclear generator, the first ever to be so powered. There were many more lighthouse, the traditional tower on land, as we neared Baltimore's inner harbor; there are so many that it almost seems like a connect the dots/lighthouses passage.

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Of course, we saw Ft. McHenry, of "O, say can you see..." fame. Without even having a clue, it seems that we are, in part, going over the very same waterways that the British traveled in the Chesapeake Bay campaign during the War of 1812. We first read about that in Solomons, MD. Up the Potomac, up the Patuxent, up the Patapsco went the British and so went we two. The War of 1812 is one about which I have scant knowledge. After the trip I will have to remedy that.

We passed an industrial site on the lower reach of the river, Sparrows Point. It is/was a part of Bethlehem Steel. Not a thing appeared to be happening ... shut down and shuttered. I researched that there is talk of putting an LNG terminal there. There was also a container port above the Ft. McHenry Memorial Bridge. All the boats were brightly painted and only one was recognizable: the green hulled boat is a car carrier with a ramp on the starboard side of the stern that goes down to load and unload cars. The two to the right are container vessels, but of a type I have never seen, maybe half for containers and half for who knows? The red hulled boat to the left: clueless.

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The marina was at the end of the harbor; had we gone another 50 yards we would have hit a sea wall. When we were researching the choices we selected this marina for its proximity to downtown, and downtown is about 200 yards away. What we didn't realize is that walking around the harbor to get to the downtown area is about a mile or so. Taking the dinghy across would be quicker and save a ton of steps.

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We were greeted at the dock by someone from the marina to handle the lines and by a smaller visitor, truly the size of a bathtub rubber duck, no feathers yet. It was either lost, or so small that it could not make headway into a fairly stiff wind, or, more probably, both. I have no clue whether it's a sea bird or some type of duck. Regardless, it was paddling courageously and energetically to no place in particular, generally managing a circle.

This is, more or less, what Carol and I see from the back of our boat. A pretty nice view in the waning light of the evening. The wave looking thing on the right is the Aquarium.

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Our son, Sean, arrived in Washington, DC on Tuesday for a vacation. Mamas love their babies even when their babies are older than 40 and weigh more than 200-lb. Sunday having been Mothers' Day, Carol's "suggestion" for her gift was a visit to WDC to see Sean. Neither he nor I chose to step in front of that truck. The trip was short, not much more than 50 miles. There was an interesting symmetry: having twice passed under the Woodrow Wilson Memorial Bridge, we twice got to drive over it, Sean's hotel being in Alexandria, VA. We were back on the boat Wednesday in time for lunch. Mama was happy.

On Wednesday we were able to get together with my cousin Sue and Jay, who took us to Ft. McHenry to see the place from land. It was pretty interesting and closed a loop: in WDC we had visited the Museum of American History and saw the actual flag on display that flew that day and night in 1814. We went to dinner at a place that they said has the best crabcakes in MD, which suited Carol. Sue's brother, my cousin Bill, was also able to join us with his wife, Linda. It was a good time it having been a while since we had visited Sue and a longer while for Bill.

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Sue and Jay took us on Wednesday through a very old section of Baltimore called Fells Point. So, on Thursday we decided to revisit the area. We hopped aboard buses, at no charge, that got us there quickly and in air conditioning. The area is mostly gentrified but not quite all the way. Most of the houses were in exceptionally good shape, i.e. very well maintained, at least on the street side. My guesstimate is that most houses date from 18-something, maybe a few from 17-something. It was a great place to walk and rubberneck. There were whole streets where every house had a plaque denoting that it was registered as a historic location. The clapboard houses stood out in a sea of brickwork, notwithstanding the bright colors. There was a third one, but that picture didn't turn out. We passed by a real estate office and looked at the offerings in the window. The old houses, like in the pictures, didn't seem all that expensive; the newly built condos, on the other hand, were very dear. There were lots of places selling beer, almost as many selling food, most doing both. A good place to be hungry and thirsty. Better yet to be thirsty and Irish, about 1/2 the bars seeming to claim genetic descendancy from that emerald isle. I don't know why the Irish are so closely associated with alcohol, but they are.

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We also visited the USS Constellation, a restored vessel from 1854. It seemed unusual in that there was no structure on or above the deck, just the several masts rose higher that the gunwales with a clear view from stem to stern. The openness on the deck made it seem that the Constellation larger that the USS Alacrity on which I served, but in fact the Constellation is about 15-ft. shorter. They both were, however, wooden ships. History has judged which was the more compelling of the two. There are several other ships on display and open for visits in the harbor and we saw them all, a busman's holiday of boats.

Link to USS Constellation

The boat has received small amounts of attention in the morning as we've performed modest maintenance, none of which has required much time or much energy. Mostly we've been enjoying the visit to the place and with family and the .... somewhat ..... warmer weather, a welcome change and, hopefully, a permanent one.

We're leaving tomorrow, Saturday, but I haven't yet decided where. We had thought to go straight on to Cape May, the jumping off place to Long Island. I am reluctant to arrive that far north too early due to temperatures. Marinas are out of the question, costing $5.00 ~ $6.00 per foot, per night, about the expense of a luxury hotel without the room service or the Godiva chocolates on the pillow.

Posted by sailziveli 08:31 Archived in USA Tagged boats boating Comments (0)

Annapolis, MD

overcast 77 °F

Carol needed a confidence builder so, she got to be Captain for a Day, the title of Queen for a Day being already taken. The plan, get us from the dock in Oxford, MD to the dock in Annapolis, MD, a trip of some 35 nm.

After narrowly avoiding two disasters in the first three minutes she got us out the channel and into the Tred Avon River, heading for the Choptank River. All was relatively uneventful. The sun was supposed to make a brief appearance in the morning. The closest it came was to make the slate gray skies fade to dove gray, but only for a nanosecond; if you blinked, you missed it. Mostly it was overcast, a little rain, very cool, never breaking 60o, a chilly, damp trip.

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There was a fair amount of commercial boat traffic, i.e. really big things, going up and down the Bay, but we were never really very close to their lines of travel. Even in the deepest water, well over 40-ft. we saw crab pots, not so many, and not so dense. All the deep water crab pots seem to have a small flag on the buoy "mast." I don't know whether this is for the crabbers to be able to locate their traps or a requirement that allows other boaters to be better able to see the traps in more navigable waters. Regardless, these ubiquitous boats, running a little over 20-ft., are the proximate cause of all the trouble. There must be hundreds of these things in the Bay, all white, all genetic clones of a single design decades old.

Just south of Annapolis, on the western side of the Bay, is the Thomas Point Shoal lighthouse, a very old original. It was rebuilt in 1877, an earlier version succumbing to ice; it was manned by light keepers until 1986, over a century, then automated. It is the oldest of its kind still standing in U.S. waters. Pretty cool, I think.

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It took just about seven hours to make the passage, fighting the tide the whole trip. The mouth of the Severn River, which the cruising guides say can be nasty, was calm, benign, uneventful. Carol, after circling the harbor several times finally found the marina and tried to enter the slip. This was not going to work so I took over and got the boat into the slip as directed by the marina attendant. Except, the slip was too narrow, so we were directed to another slip, wider, but it required a port side tie and we were rigged for the starboard side. Clear, direct words were exchanged with the attendant who decided at that point to let us go wherever we wanted, a wise choice on his part. So after slip 13 and slip 14, slip 15 proved, mostly, to our liking. We've stayed at many marinas and the clear standard for excellence is still the guys at the city marina in St. Augustine, FL. They are the only ones from whom I have ever asked and heeded advice.

Carol's assessment of her captaincy for the day was, on a pass/fail basis, that she passed; my assessment of her assessment was that I would agree with her. For a guy like me, who has lived most of his adult life at the pointy end of several very sharp sticks, it's hard to understand the feeling of accomplishment and confidence that this "rite of passage" gave Carol.

This was our third trip to Annapolis: once to visit Ron & Shirley, once for a boat show, and this trip. After we had the boat buttoned up and secure, it dawned on Carol that we are moored in the middle of the boat show, at least where it was that particular year. Annapolis the the sailing center of the Eastern US, probably the whole country. I don't know how that came to be, it just is. A trip to Annapolis on a sailboat has some of the metaphysical overtones of a trip to Jerusalem, but without the sectarian bloodshed: THIS IS THE PLACE! When looking at the resident sailboats here it seems that folks here have a different relationship with their sailing their boats than do folks like us who cruise. There are few davits and dinghies; no solar panels or wind generators; no canvas surrounds, many boats with no cockpit canvas at all ....sailing is a wind in the face experience; whisker poles abound; jerry cans .... fuggedaboutit, most boats displaying their sleek, graceful shapes unencumbered by cruising paraphernalia. Even the most modest boats look anxious to harness the wind and to challenge the water.

As always, just when you're having fun .... real life intervenes. Carol had been concerned about some spots on her skin, so part of the reason for being in Annapolis is so that she could see a dermatologist and get some biopsies done. Not overly concerning at this point. We've been talking to friends back home and there are some health problems that are almost dire and some that are difficult in their consequences. We plan on visiting some friends that lived in Chicago and moved here to retire. Found out on Friday that she and I share some health issues, hers being less than a week old, so we compared notes over the phone.

The week, to date, has been quiet. A rainy Tuesday, a good day for reading on the boat, which we did, was followed by clear weather. Carol needed a way to get to the doctor's so we rented a car and spent a lot of time running boat errands getting to two different West Marine stores on several occasions and a couple of trips to Fawcett's the local guy here in Annapolis. The experience of no visibility the morning we left Colonial Beach made an impression. We have a USCG fog horn using compressed air and looking sort of like a can of Cheez Whiz for manhole covers; it will get us past any inspection but the bigger question was, "What happens if we really get socked in up north?" Da' Cheez Whiz wouldn't cut it. So, we cobbled together the parts and pieces to make an electric horn from the several visits to the several stores. The good news: I got it together, and it works. The bad news: rather than having a deep, penetrating, resonant basso profundo sound, it rather resembles the honk of a whining, petulant escapee horn from a Yugo automobile. Better than nothing. ..... mostly.

We were on the ICW for 4 days, Oriental to Norfolk. There must be something in the water, maybe decayed plant matter, that creates an ugly, marigold color patina on the hull. Usually, this is just at the water line; because it had been windy and wavy our entire hull was mottled in different degrees from top to bottom, stem to stern. Most acids seem to cut the crud, including citric acid, but this is slow. We bought some oxylic acid solution that was pretty aggressive, but required eye cover and something to prevent inhaling the aerosol. Acid for the water stains, Soft Scrub for everything else, up one side and then the other; it was like spit shining a school bus. But, work done, it looks a lot better.

Annapolis is a pretty neat place. It seems unusual to me to see buildings from 1790, 1890 and 1990 all in such close proximity. The old stuff is what fascinates me. The town, like many others, has a downloadable app which includes a walking tour. If you scribe a 1/4-mi. radius from the statehouse dome, that pretty much covers the tour; not a lot of walking involved. To me the sense of the age of the place comes from the side streets more than the tour locations. We also walked through the USNA, hard on the banks of the Severn River. It was a wonderful collage of old buildings with new, much more graceful than the U of F. There is a huge "chapel" at the Academy, much larger than most churches. There was a service of some sort today so we did not get to go inside. From the outside it looked amazing, the stained glass windows huge. The two coolest residences in town are both temporary: the Governor's mansion and the USNA Superintendent's house.

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One side street which we traveled had buildings with these great doors.

Friday was the second day of summer, the first being about a month ago in Norfolk. The sliver of water in which we are moored has the name of Ego Alley. The reason for this was not apparent until about 4pm when the alley came alive people at the clubs and boats on the water. Change the Beneteaus and Sea-Rays to Fords and Chevys and it could have been Main Street in Modesto, CA and we were watching American Graffiti. Boats, big boats, power and sail, entered the alley, traversed the length of it and the reversed to exit, some doing it again, seeing and being seen ... Ego Alley. The din from the people at the clubs on the other side of the alley was loud and combined with live music it sounded like a party and we were part of it. There was a lot of "dock & dine," boats pulling in for a few hours and then leaving. The party continued well into the wee hours but being deaf has its advantages and we slept through the rest of the event.

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We're off on Monday for Baltimore.

Posted by sailziveli 14:30 Archived in USA Comments (0)

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