May 19, 2019
As planned, we were underway from Oxford Safe Harbor Marina by 08:00, and we headed north into another beautiful, sunny morning. Winds were light, seas were calm and there was very little boat traffic on Chesapeake Bay as we exited the Choptank River. Nice way to start the day.
For the most part the transit some 30 miles to the Bay Bridge by Annapolis, then 40 miles up to the 14 mile long C & D canal were uneventful, except that for the last 15 miles or so before the canal there was quite a bit of wood debris in the water. It was mostly relatively small diameter tree branches, but there were occasional logs and Carol even saw a couple of sheets of plywood. We “thumped” one something, which got our attention and we both kept a sharp lookout after that to avoid hitting something more substantial, which could cause a bent prop or other damage to the boat. As I say, this went on for several miles, even slightly into the canal. At one point a couple of miles after the first area of debris we passed a 110 foot US Coast Guard cutter headed the other way. I radioed them to give them a heads-up about the wood in the water and they thanked me but said nothing to warn me that there was a lot more debris ahead for us. Disappointing…
There was much more boat traffic in the Bay starting just before Annapolis, which is a huge sailing center. We could see several sailboat races going on and I would go out of my way to not interfere with a race course, but in fact we didn’t have any problems with the races. Once through the Bay Bridge the traffic slacked off a bit until we got near Rock Hall, and from there until we got through the canal there were sailboats, powerboats, and my personal favorite (not!) jet skis galore, out enjoying a beautiful spring Sunday. Our boat makes a fairly large wake, which attracts young men on jet skis like moths to a flame because they like to jump the wake. Some of them get surprisingly high in the air and I’m sure they love it, while the Captain hates having any vessel head toward us at high speed. The weather held all the way through the canal, and once past Chesapeake City the boat traffic slacked off significantly.
Our destination, Delaware City Marina, is on a very narrow canal with shoal mud flats at the entrance and swift currents. When I phoned earlier this morning to make our reservation Tim, the owner, asked if I’ve ever been there before and when I said No, he told me to phone him again when we were under the last bridge in the Canal, which is a half mile or so before exiting the canal into Delaware River . This I did, and Tim gave me detailed directions for the 2 miles from the C&D Canal to the Delaware City Branch Canal, where the marina is located, and said to radio him again when we were off the entrance. Yikes! I like to think I’m pretty good at following directions and of course I didn’t want to go aground, but I was surprised by the detail of his directions as he walked me in on the radio all the way to our dock. The current was behind us and we were to moor starboard side to a long floating face dock, which can be tricky in a single-screw boat, but again Tim was right there on the dock and he talked me right alongside as pretty as you please.
My goal all day had been to be docked in time for the 17:00 briefing, and we made it with an hour to spare. My friend Peter kind of warned me that Tim might make the trip down the Bay sound scarier than it probably is, and in fact he made dire predictions about both current and wave heights, which he said would almost certainly be twice whatever NOAA predicted near the mouth of the Bay. The marine forecast and tide predictions called for Southwest winds 10-15 knots and a rising tide for the next day, which I had thought sounded perfectly reasonable. But Tim wasn’t so sure and he strongly suggested getting up for the 04:00 forecast update before deciding whether to go or wait. Unfortunately or not, Carol came away from the briefing a bit shaken at the prospect of the doom & gloom Tim had suggested.
But as a good follower of directions I dutifully woke up at 04:00 and checked the forecast, which was pretty much as it was the day before except they added, “…seas 3-4 feet later in the morning.” Well, if we left at 06:00, as we would in order to have a favorable tidal current, we would get to the entrance of the Bay late morning. And since Tim had assured us that the seas would be twice whatever was forecast, that would mean we would find 6-8 foot short period seas at the mouth, which would be fairly nasty and I knew Carol would hate (I wouldn’t like it, either!). I considered downplaying the forecast to Carol and going ahead because I kind of thought Tim was exaggerating, but then I reconsidered because my credibility would be in jeopardy if I told Carol everything would be OK and we ran into 8’ seas.
So I went back to bed and we’re here until at least Wednesday, because the forecast for tomorrow is for much higher winds as a front comes through. There’s not much going on in Delaware City except for a few shops and Crabby Dick’s crab house, but the marina is very protected and the docks are substantial, if the heads and showers are a OK but kind of old, and there are definitely worse places to be stuck for 3 days. There are 2 or 3 Loopers here and I’m sure we’ll be fine.
BTW, later on Monday afternoon I posted on a Facebook group I’ve been participating in. I
asked if anyone had gone down Delaware Bay that day and asked what the conditions were like. As I suspected, several boats responded and said it had been a lovely day with calm conditions. Maybe I should have trusted my instincts.
Today: 93.0 nautical miles
Running total: 928.7 nautical miles