9.22.12 (3)

The Roughest Passage You’ll Ever Make

Saturday September 22, 2012

Today we took the Cape May Channel to Delaware Bay and up the whole length to the C&D Canal, which connects Delaware Bay to Chesapeake Bay. Yesterday morning Matt threw the Waterway Guide in my lap and told me to read up a little on the area. This was the first sentence of the chapter, “The waters of Delaware Bay are considered by many boaters to be rough, tedious and inhospitable…..notorious for building up short, choppy seas quickly…..the skills of the navigator are likely to be tested here”. After reading that calming description of the area I started searching for every little inlet possible for anchorage along the way should we need to pull off. Just as scared as us to make the trip were our new friends Brian and Stephanie on Rode Trip as we decided to buddy boat together. Before we could get out on the water though we all got up bright and early to make our way to the yard sale at Utch’s marina, something all of us had seen advertiesed the previous day. No one had any kind of idea what would actually be sold there but it sounded interesting enough to make the trip to shore. Tying up under the docks at the marina once again we walked out to see tables set up everywhere with everything you could think of. There were boat parts, fishing gear, and even a little pink acoustic guitar. It must be a pretty popular even every year because even a local radio station was there covering it. We didn’t have a ton of time to browse since we still wanted to up anchor by 9:30, but we all seemed to find something we wanted or needed. Matt and I picked up a couple of fishing lures, a gaff hook, and a flotation cushion since the storm in NYC had ripped our Lifesling right off the back of our boat. We didn’t even notice it was gone until we were on our way to Sandy Hook. Spending $125 to replace it didn’t sound too tempting at the moment, but a $3 cushion would at least keep us Coast Guard legal. Brian and Stephanie also did well at the sale, picking up lots of fishing supplies themselves and even an only used once 5 hp outboard for their dinghy.

 Dropping them back off at their boat we pulled up the anchor and got ready for what we thought would be the roughest passage we’d ever make. Getting out of the Cape May Channel and into Delaware Bay it was a sunny morning, winds were around 15 knots, and waves were 1-2 feet. It didn’t look bad, but I was waiting for something to come up on us any second. We both raised our mainsails while in the channel and once we were in the open bay Matt and I set a course for a straight shot up the bay while Rode Trip was quickly disappearing off to our port side. So much for buddy boats. While cruising by ourselves now we were tuned into channel 16 on the VHF when we heard our name called although I couldn’t make out the name of who was hailing us. Answering anyway I found out it was Scott that we had met the previous night and he was just calling to see how our trip was going so far and where we were staying for the night. He mentioned how they were planning on going all the way up the bay and through the canal to end at a river just on the other side. Our buddy boat plans for the night had consisted of anchoring at Reedy Island just before the canal, but after listening to Scott it sounded like winds would be shifting to where the island would no longer have a good holding for us overnight. Then finding out the C&D was only 12 miles long we told Scott that him and Kim could probably expect to see us next to them that night.

Going back to our awesome cruising (more on that in a minute) we heard Scott hailing Rode Trip, probably to relay the same message. There seemed to be some problems in communication though where Rode Trip could hear Scott but he could not hear them. Since we could hear both parties just fine I thought I’d hail Rode Trip (who was still barely in our sight) and just relay the message myself. Only problem was not only could I not remember his boat’s name but I couldn’t make it out each time he had repeated it on the radio. Matt cocked his head to the side and offered “I think it’s Angel Eyes” although both of us still didn’t think that sounded 100% right. So while talking to Rode Trip I’d say “I was just talking to Angeleyes” and smash it together really quick so no one would be able to tell I was saying it wrong, especially if Kim and Scott were still listening, “and they said they were going all the way through the canal tonight, so we were thinking of following Angeleyes, what do you think?”. They agreed as well and didn’t correct my mispronunciation.

Back to our awesome cruising. I know a lot of it has to do with the current and we’re not rock stars like this on our own, but we were once again sailing at 6.5 knots with only 10-15 knots of wind. The ride was smooth and easy. I was able to move around below and even give Matt a haircut in the cockpit (bad idea, could not contain the hair, it was everywhere). When we were 2/3rds of the way through the bay we began messing with the sheets and the course a little. The speed went up to 7, then 7.5, and then 8. For a good 45 minutes we were steadily cruising at 8.4 knots. With only 14 knots of wind off our back quarter. This was seriously the best day of sailing we’ve ever had. I felt like flipping the finger to my guide book and then dancing a little jig on it just to show it how wrong it was. To be fair though we have heard these waters can get very rough, but they’re usually only that way when making a southerly passage. One of the reasons I was also so happy with our new speed was that we were finally catching back up to Rode Trip. We found out on the VHF conversation that they had caught a good current and followed it into the marked channel in the center of the bay, going out and then cutting back in. We were going in a straight line and somehow they were beating us. In a 32 ft West Sail. It logistically shouldn’t be possible. So as we were getting closer to the end an they had to cut back in I would try to calculate the distance between us to see if we’d come out on top. We did not. Our buddy boat beat us to the C&D, but not by much.

Putting down our sails and throwing on the engines we continued to ride nice currents through the canal as the sun was setting. Off in the distance I could see dark stormy clouds and had heard on a weather report there would be a chance of rain that night. If there would be a storm or high winds we didn’t want to be in an exposed area and radioed Rode Trip about a little cove we found just passed the river that Anthyllide was planning to anchor in. They declined and said they still planned on going to the river. Getting out of the C&D it was now dark and we still followed behind Rode Trip, following the red and green buoys in the river to our chosen area on the chartplotter. With winds having picked up to 25 knots now they also realized the river may not be a good place to stay and radioed to say they’d be tucking into a cove just before the one we were planning on. Less than two miles before either of us could get to our destination the rain came, and it came in force. It went from not a single drop to pounding down, sting you in the eyes kind of rain within seconds. Even though it was dark you could see it coming across the water like a curtain. I didn’t mind traveling in it since the motor was on and with the river mostly keeping a straight course the rest of the way it was possible to keep the autopilot on and take shelter under the dodger. The only thing that did worry me was anchoring in this mess. It was hard enough for us to anchor in the dark and try to read Matt’s and signals from the bow, but this was blinding and deafening. And then I remembered the only thing good about these kinds of punishing storms is they’re usually gone as quick as they come. Just as we were pulling into our cove the rain had stopped and we set down the anchor with ease. Maybe I had spoken about this being our best day of sailing a little too quickly. Although if we want to get into technicalities, the sails were down when the storm came. Still the best day of sailing ever.

Found our boat buddy across the bay!

Storm coming in over the C&D.

Our back end looks like it has a little too much weight on it, and not just because Matt’s been eating half my meals.

(photo courtesy of Rode Trip)

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