36. Crunching Numbers and Making Flag Friends

After a few quiet days in Solomons, it was time to press on. It had been a while since I’d gotten fuel, so I decided to take a splash on my way out of town. I’d passed quite a few really cheap fuel docks on my way up the ICW, but for one reason or another, I didn’t take advantage. Calvert was a tad steep by pandemic standards, but compared to this time last year, it was a good deal.

I took 80 gallons. That’s all I’d used in the 381 miles since Southport, way back in March. That works out to 4.76 nautical miles per gallon, or about 1.5 gallons per hour at 7 knots.

Those numbers might sound fairly terrible by car standards. For a boat though, that’s actually pretty good. I bet my house gets farther on a gallon of diesel than yours does!

In comparison, my last boat Wayfarer, which was much smaller but much faster, only managed about 1 mpg at cruising speed. I could only hold enough fuel to go about 120 miles. In fact I tested that one time unintentionally, when I found out the hard way that my fuel gauge wasn’t very accurate. I ran out within vomiting distance of the fuel dock, and had to be towed in by a jet ski. It was a bit embarrassing.

With Sylphide, I have a theoretical range of something like 1,700 nautical miles. That’s about the distance from New York to Martinique, or Aruba, or Guatemala, or even Butte, Montana as the crow flies. I have no intention of ever testing that theory.

Anyhow, that’s enough nerd stuff.

Since memorial day, I’d taken to flying my merchant marine flag. I like a good flag, and I like to show a little appreciation for an under memorialized group that gave more than their fair share. As a result, I’ve met several new people that I may not have otherwise. The first was the fuel dock attendant at Calvert. He asked about it, and after I told him what I do for a living, I found out that he’s a cadet a the same college I went to. We had a nice chat about the school, the old training ship, the new training ship, whether that one bastard was still there or not, and about how the pandemic has screwed up everyone’s plans. It was nice to be conscious of how glad I was to not be at that school any more.

When I cleared Solomons, I found a really beautiful day out on the Chesapeake. For once, there was no fog, and the sun was out all day. It was a hot one, and I was very glad to be out on the water with a nice breeze to keep me comfortable. The run was smooth and pleasant. There was lots of other boat traffic out, but all well behaved and easily avoided. I whiled away the hours with another audiobook, and some thumb exercises on my phone.

I had originally planned to stop somewhere in Annapolis again, but decided to try someplace new this time around. I opted for Rock Hall, because why not. It didn’t really matter where I stayed, since I was only planning to spend the night anyway. Sylphide and I pulled into Rock Hall Landing at around 1800, and got checked in just as the pool was closing for the day. I had really hoped to use said pool, as I had been sweaty AF all day. I tried showing the pool attendant some leg, but it didn’t help, and I had to cool off in the shower instead.

The dock I was tied to was a busy one. There were lots of folks milling around and socializing. There was a cruising couple in a nice DeFever 44 who were particularly friendly. I did my best to be polite and sociable while maintaining some distance, but to be honest, it felt nice for things to almost seem normal again.

The next morning I timed my start in the hopes of catching a fair current through the C and D canal. I was underway by about 0900, and followed in the wake of my new friends on the DeFever. They knew a shortcut that I didn’t, and were a good knot faster than me anyway, so they pulled ahead and disappeared over the horizon fairly quickly. The weather was sunny and warm again, but there was quite a lot of wind. Thankfully the bay had narrowed enough that there wasn’t enough fetch for any real waves to form, though I did bash into one fairly enormous wake, courtesy of this Dependable chap:

I caught the easterly current through the canal, and made good time through to the Delaware side. I picked a spot to anchor just south of the east end of the canal, tucked in behind Reedy Island. The wind was forecast to be north westerly, so I expected to find some decent shelter there. The wind was more northerly though, and was still blowing pretty hard when I arrived. The land on all sides was quite flat and low lying, and It doesn’t seem too likely that there’s much shelter from any wind direction. There was a fair bit of a sea running, but there weren’t any other obvious options nearby, so I decided to give it a try, and see how she sat. I stuck out a little extra chain, and dug myself in.

She held like an absolute champ. The current reversed twice while I was there, and at one point, There was a 20 knot breeze and a three knot current running in the same direction, and she didn’t budge an inch. I’ve never had any reason to doubt my ground tackle’s capabilities, but this absolutely cemented my trust in it. I was able to get a good night’s sleep, secure in the knowledge that I was well fastened to the earth, in the reassuring shadow of a nuclear power plant.

Cozy!

The following day was Delaware Bay Day, which began with my DeFever friends steaming past and giving a toot, while I was still in my underwear rubbing the sleep out of my eyes and having a bit of a scratch.

This leg of the trip had kicked me right in the nuts on the way south, and I wasn’t much excited for a rematch. Last time, the forecast called for fairly benign conditions, and I was greeted by a sloppy mess that sent me back to Cape May with my tail between my legs, and a mess to clean up. I’m still finding wayward coffee beans from that episode. So this time, with some wind forecast, I was dubious about my chances. Thankfully things lined up beautifully for this round. The wind and current were working together to keep things calm and comfortable, and even gave me a nice speed boost. Lovely.

My next stop was Cape May. On my way south, I’d anchored out here, and I considered doing the same this time as well. I wouldn’t be able to do much tourism anyway, so I thought I might save myself some money.

On the other hand, I needed groceries, I had laundry to do, and I had a few things to take care of in the engine room as well. I also had tentative plans to anchor out just about every night until I reached the upper Hudson River, so this would be my last obvious option to tie up for a while. There were several marinas in town that had good reviews, and I decided to stop at Utsch’s, because why not.

Getting into the marina was a little tricky for a non local like myself. Neither of my charts showed much detail, and if it wasn’t for some local knowledge I’d gleaned from Trawler Forum, I could easily have screwed it up. I got the entrance channel part right while nobody was looking, but thankfully I found another chance to screw up where lots of people could see me. The fairways in the marina are pretty skinny, not much wider than Sylphide is long, in fact, and I had to turn 90 degrees to get into my slip. It wouldn’t have been any trouble on a calm day, but unfortunately it wasn’t a calm day. The wind was shoving me onto the dock, and despite having the help of a couple of dock hands, I bumped into the corner piling with just enough force to make me look like a jerk

Thankfully, in the war between aluminum and wood, the metal generally wins. Nothing was bent or bruised but my pride, and who doesn’t need to be knocked down a peg or two from time to time?

I checked in, plugged in, rigged the fresh water hose, said hello to the neighbors, and made myself at home. My flag worked it’s magic again, and I had a nice chat with another neighbor who is a fellow merchant seaman. He was also living aboard and single handing in a sharp looking Pacific Seacraft.

I ended up staying at Cape May for four hot and sunny days. From what I could see from a couple of Lyft rides, The town is a lovely one, and one that I plan to spend more time getting to know in the future. Much of the town was still closed for pandemic season, and while it looked busy enough to me, the locals said it was eerily quiet for this time of year. Utch’s was a pleasant place to stay, and the staff were all pleasant and helpful.

I ran my errands and got my chores done, and still found plenty of time to sit on my ass and be lazy in between. What more could a girl ask for?

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