46. The Big Bays

After a couple of refreshing days at Utch’s Marina and Boat Bowling Alley, I was recharged and ready to get moving again. The weather was excellent on the morning of departure. It was sunny, warm, and calm. I threw off the lines and headed for the hole in the wall that is Utch’s front door. I took the ninety degree left hand turn, and followed the wall toward the Cape May Canal.

I dumb-lucked my way into a nice following current, and got a little boost through the cut. I squeezed through the narrow abandoned rail bridge, feeling close enough on both sides to give someone on shore a high five. Being fairly early on a weekday morning, there wasn’t a much traffic. I only encountered one other cruiser, and they weren’t having as much fun as I was. I found them sideways across the channel, apparently adrift. There was a towboat standing by. I slowed down to sneak by, and not at all to rubberneck, but before I got the chance to do either, they were back up and running. The towboat fled the scene, and the cruiser and I formed a convoy of two for the remainder of the canal.

We eventually passed the empty Cape May Ferry docks, and stuck our snouts out into Delaware Bay. My companion promptly engaged his warp drive, and disappeared over the horizon.

The weather on the bay was near-perfect. It was sunny and warm and dry. The seas were flat, save for a few ripples tickled up by a light southerly breeze. It was as comfortable a ride as I could have hoped for. I opened up all of the doors and hatches with much relish. It was a glorious day to travel. A sharp contrast to the out-of-balance washing machine ride I’d enjoyed the first time I’d made this trip.

Sylphide was alone on the bay for most of the day. I eventually passed a couple of motoring sailboats above Miah Maull Shoal Light, and was later overtaken by a containership. The box ship was completely devoid of boxes, which is unusual, and it was being piloted by an lady, which is also unusual. It’s nice to hear more female voices on the radio, though. There are more than enough dudes on ships.

It was about 4:30 by the time we had reached the top end of the bay. I had the anchor set behind Reedy Island just in time to pour myself a beverage and enjoy the sunset from the back porch. It had been a great day of cruising, and I was in an excellent mood. I found myself wishing that some more of my deck chairs were being used.

Not bad!

Over dinner, I started to consider where the hell I’d be going next. I perused charts and weather forecasts and Active Captain reviews for the upper Chesapeake. I was inclined to find another anchorage, since I was enjoying this one so much, but I didn’t find any spots that I was excited about. I eventually decided that I’d go back to Rock Hall, and get myself a dock for the next night. With that plan in place, I took my brain off the hook and relaxed for the evening.

The next morning, the weather continued to be beautiful and pleasant. The day was forecast to be comfortable and clear, if a bit windy. That wouldn’t matter much though, since we’d be spending most of our day in the protected waters of the big canal which connects the Chesapeake and Delaware bays. For reasons I don’t entirely understand, it’s called the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal. Go figure. Where do they come up with this stuff?

I put on the kettle and made a round of the engine room, where I found all was well. The wet stuff, black stuff, green stuff, and red stuff were where they needed to be, and in sufficient quantities. I fired up Perkins and while he did his stretches and warm-ups, I made some french press. The anchor came up clean and easy, without the need to open up the chain locker from below and shove things around.

We got underway and soon found ourselves rounding the corner into the C&D canal. There was a little bit of traffic right at the entrance, but nothing to give me any heartburn. I did see this odd craft, which looked like the hull of a partially finished 120 foot expedition-style yacht from the 1960’s, with the pilothouse from a tugboat half that size, apparently added as an afterthought. I can’t imagine he could see much in the direction he was going, but he sallied forth with the kind of confidence that wins you dates and high paying jobs. Good for him.

No idea what this thing is.

The trip through the Canal was smooth and uneventful. There was a little recreational traffic, but no big commercial units to speak of. I let my helmsman do most of the steering, and gave that part of my brain over to listening to some more of Winston Churchill’s antics. Out the windows, the fall foliage and bright blue sky made the otherwise slightly uninteresting scenery quite pleasant.

Dragging my epic tidal wake of doom and destruction down the coast. Hide ya kids, hide ya wife! We WAKIN’ ERRYBODY UP IN HERE!

We’d started the day with a little following current, but by the time we reached the west end of the canal, it had turned against us. The southwesterly wind had also filled in, so that when we’d cleared the canal, the weather and waves were right in our teeth. This made for slow progress. I called ahead to Rock Hall Landing marina, where I’d reserved a slip for the night, to tell them that I’d be a little later than I’d originally expected. The Dockmeister informed me that I’d only be allowed to come in if I arrived before dark, which wasn’t going to happen.

I started looking for an anchorage instead, and settled on a spot behind Cuckold Point. I’d never been there before. The area was fairly shallow, my charts weren’t terribly detailed, and Active Captain showed only a small number of mixed reviews. I wasn’t entirely confident in my choice. It looked to be pretty well sheltered on the chart, but I didn’t know what the topography was in the area, so I couldn’t be sure. It was also nearly sunset by the time I rounded the top end of Hart Miller Island, and there were enough crab pots around that I wasn’t excited to transit the area in the dark.

The dark had come by the time we arrived, but there turned out to be nothing to worry about. The spot was ideal. It was well protected from the upcoming weather, had plenty of depth and good holding, and was quite comfortable.

Later that evening, a thousand mile long front rolled through, and brought with it a day and a half of rain, wind, and fog. The same line of weather dropped rain on my father in Florida, and some crunchier stuff on my family up in New York. Sylphide and I snuggled in for two days and waited for it to blow over. The coziness of the cabin was amplified by the sounds of rain on deck, and fog signals from passing ships on their way in and out of Baltimore, which was just a few miles away.

The weather was still gray and clammy when we finally got underway, but the visibility was decent, and the wind had died down. I took advantage of Sylphide’s small draft to wiggle through the shallow and narrow cut around Pleasure Island, and we were spit back out into the Chesapeake.

We tootled down the bay, dodging crab pots and fishermen. The low clouds over us seemed unsure if they wanted to rain or not. We passed under the spindly looking Bay Bridge, it’s fog horn moaning overhead. I was glad to be passing under it, as I didn’t really enjoy driving over it. It’s a bit too skinny for my taste, and kinda creeps me out. We passed a sleepy looking Annapolis, and weaved our way through a gaggle of anchored tankers.

A hop skip and a jump later, Sylphide was making her way into Deale harbor. Another new location for us. I’d originally planned to tie up at Herrington Harbor North, but they were booked. I opted for Shipwright Marina instead, which was just next door. I’m glad I ended up at the smaller, more intimate facility. The staff were friendly and helpful, and the other dock dwellers were all quite pleasant. It made for a really lovely neighborhood.

My new front yard

I signed up to stay for a week, and was awarded with a gift bag that had some booze in it. I also signed up with Zimmerman Marine to have them take care of a few boat improvement projects that I’ve been looking forward to knocking off the list. Sylphide would hopefully be leaving Deale in better shape than she’d arrived.

2 thoughts on “46. The Big Bays

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