The End of the Beginning
05/27/2013 - 06/03/2013 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.