Chesapeake City to Georgetown, MD

7 November: Left Chesapeake City this morning around 9:15am to catch the tide through the C&D Canal.

Chesapeake City

The canal looked totally different during the day than it did the first night we motored down it. No twinkling lights and glowing bridges. Instead yellow, red, and orange foliage lined the waterway – a visual cue of just how late in the season we were sailing… Bald eagles circled overhead.

Once through the canal, we officially entered the Chesapeake, another big milestone for us! Winds started picking up, the tide was with us, and everything seemed to be going great. We were even planning on making it as far as Annapolis today so that we could start the weekend moored up in a cool Chesapeake town.

En route to Georgetown

Alas, sometimes the sailing gods are be unjust. As we rounded Sandy Point on the northern part of the bay we were hit by sudden downpouring rain, accompanied by incredibly strong gusting winds. From there, things only got worse. The 15 kt forecasted winds were now blowing a steady 30+ kts. The waves picked up very quickly and the ride got sloppy. Needless to say, the dogs were not happy.

Over-powered, we were forced to ease the sheets and the front sail flapped wildly until Alex could pull it in. So much for Annapolis today – conditions were bad and we ducked into the nearest sheltered river we could find, the Sassafrass River.

The river was much calmer, though the winds were still all over the place. The dogs started to relax, and we decided to sail around Knight Island and hang out on the anchor for the rest of the day. Just before the anchorage, we fired up the diesel engine. Immediately Alex could tell that all was not well with the motor. The voltage wasn’t coming up and a quick engine check revealed anti-freeze had blown out all over the frontside of the motor. The antifreeze acted as a lubricant on the belt and prevented the alternator from spinning off the belt. Within a few minutes Alex had the root of the problem diagnosed – a blown freshwater water pump. Super…

We chatted over the radio with another cruising boat, Minx (former Mainers!), who had just come through the canal and had passed us during the storm. Minx recommended the marinas in Georgetown, Maryland, just up the Sassafrass. So, instead of anchoring closer to the river’s mouth, we slowly sailed another 5 miles upriver to Georgetown Yacht Basin, where we hoped we could buy a new water pump and get back on track by morning.

This plan did also not go as well as hoped. None of the local marine stores had a water pump for our engine in stock. We ended up ordering one from somewhere in Virginia that could be shipped to us by Monday or Tuesday of next week. Looks like we’ll be staying in Georgetown for a few days!

Broken water pump

After finalizing the ordering, we did what we do whenever we arrive to a new port: we took the pooches for a walk. On our walk today we discovered that Georgetown, MD is definitely one of the tiniest/quietest town we’d visited thus far – Post Office, marine supply store, three marinas, three restaurants (one of which was closed for maintenance and one that was too expensive), and that’s it. No joke. Good thing we ended up in such a bustling metropolis for the weekend! (I’ll be dreamin’ of Annapolis tonight…)

Georgetown Yacht Basin

Despite today’s disappointing events, we decided to eat our water pump woes away, and went out to the Harbor Cafe for dinner. A small restaurant in the corner of only shopping plaza in Georgetown, we were impressed with the good food and friendly staff. However, we were also very surprised by the incredibly low number of diners that were in the restaurant with us. Where is everybody? At times, there weremore employees than diners. Maybe business is better in the summer when the marinas are more active?

Our waiter immediately recognized us as the kids with the two dogs walking around town. Already local celebrities!

Georgetown

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Chesapeake City, MD

6 November: Stayed in Chesapeake City for a well-deserved day off. Slept in. Took a long walk in the rain with the dogs.

Echoing last night’s canal-side observations, the whole town seems empty. Stores don’t open until 11am. Not even Town Hall has lights on before noon. We found a plaque near the waterway that describes how a bridge used to connect Chesapeake City to the other side of the C&D Canal, but in 1948, a bigger (better) bridge was built to replace the old one. The new bridge entirely bypasses Chesapeake City and has left the whole town largely isolated and devoid of visitors… since 1948… so many tragic undertones… 

C&D Canal Bridge

Attempted family photo

Boat tasks and cooking this afternoon. The laundry from yesterday is still very damp haha. By now, two new cruising boats have joined us in Chesapeake City one of them is the boat that passed us in Hell’s Gate, NYC on Monday and sailed the Jersey Coast with us. We have yet to see them emerge from their vessel, and since their running lights are still on in the middle of the afternoon, we’re pretty sure they immediately fell asleep once they got to this free dockage. But we’d love to meet them before we leave in the morning!

Tonight ended with a failed snack mission to the general store. Apparently the store is not very ‘general’ in the goods it sells after all. The only edible item in the store was a $1.50 packet of powdered hot chocolate. We ended the evening watching the movie Looper (see it if you haven’t!) under as many blankets as we could locate on the boat, with Piper placed strategically on top of our feet.

Delaware Bay to Chesapeake City, MD

5 November: Delaware Bay and the C&D Canal today!

Showered for as long as possible at the marina and ran two loads through the washer. No time for drying…

Laundry dryingFlat calm seas glassy smooth the ENTIRE day. Alex got the autopilot working again (after an unfortunate sitting-and-breaking-the-autopilot-mount-incident… good one Alexa). We dance partied. We tried to stream some Moth podcasts. And there was plenty of family naptime as we cruised up to the C&D Canal entrance. Not terribly eventful, but easy and relaxing, which was all we wanted post-Jersey.

Delaware Bay calmPhoto essay on boat naps with dogs:

Naptime1 Naptime2Naptime4 Naptime3 Naptime5 Naptime6Since the tide didn’t turn until 9pm, it was another late/cold night by the time we started motoring west through the canal. We passed several large tankers and barges brightly lit for their nighttime bay transits.

Delaware Bay at night

The C&D Canal was surprisingly magical at night. Canal lamps (=street lamps) line the entire way, and bridges every mile or so tower above. The only weird part was the utter lack of human life. No cars. No houses. The whole canal seemed almost abandoned…

Around 10pm we docked in Chesapeake City at the town pier, where cruisers can stay for free for 24 hours.

Cape May, NJ cont.

4 November, cont.: We dropped Sarah off at the Cape May bus station later that afternoon, sad to see our first kidnapped friend depart. Alex and I took a brisk walk around Cape May very Cape Cod-y, but definitely larger and with a more suburban layout.

Takin' his sweet time...

Takin’ his sweet time… Capt. Sherpa.

Next stop: Luck Bones Backwater Grille for much needed Bloody Mary’s. Heaven in a glass! Literally.

We went back to the boat, walked the dogs, power napped, and met up with Alex’s brother, Adam, who drove all the way from Northern Jersey to see us for this leg of our trip. (Adam had been our valiant chase boat on the Piscataqua for our very first day.) Back to Lucky Bones for way too much food, but so so good. Get the loaded fries appetizer. Just do it. Thanks for dinner Adam!

We really can’t emphasize enough how supportive our family and friends have been throughout our planning stages and sailing journey. We LOVE you all!!!

AND, we ran into Pierre and Alec at Lucky Bones haha.

New Jersey Coast to Cape May, NJ

3 & 4 November: Jersey Coast — CONQUERED!! It was the worst of times, it was the best of times.

At 5am we untied from the Locust Point Yacht club with 6 layers of warm weather gear on each. 80% of the crew (all but Alex) were totally naive to what was coming our way. The initial passage under the Throgg’s Neck Bridge and down through Hell’s Gate went really well! The sun was shining. It was cold, but our spirits were high as New York City sparkled ahead of us. One other cruising sailboat passed us just before Hell’s Gate, likely taking advantaged of the Jersey coast weather window as well. The traffic on the East river was incredible, with large ferries charging back and forth in front, beside, and behind us. The large vessels paid very little, if any attention to the Abby B. but luckily we had a skilled captain at the helm who deftly maneuvered the vessel around these massive boats. Alex later likened the experience to being a “minnow in a school of tuna”.

East River NYC Brooklyn BridgeAfter safely exiting the East River we passed smoothly between Queens and Manhattan: Empire State Building, Chrysler Building, World Trade Center, traffic, joggers, etc. Under the Brooklyn Bridge. Waved to Lady Liberty with homemade (boatmade?) breakfast sandwiches in hand. And we were making 9-10 kts with the current in our favor. Perfection!

Lady Liberty Cold Captain AlThat is until we rounded Sandy Hook, New Jersey… and the actual coast transit began. Double reefed, 20+ kt winds from the northwest, heeled over, plus driving into a swell, we were moving slowly and everyone was really cold. (Good thing Sarah knew what she was getting herself into!).

One cool sighting: our first Bottlenose dolphin sighting, leaping out of the water around 4pm NE of Lavalette, NJ!

Thanks to daylight savings time, the sun set at around 4:45pm. Quote of the trip, from Alex to the rest of the crew: “Just think, only 13 more hours til the sun’s back up.”

Jersey NightFrom then on, morale took a nose dive. Cold. Colder. Coldest. The wind switched from northwest, to west, to southwest, and the sea state worsened. As we were passing Barneget Light at 8pm, the conditions hit an all time low. Our forward progress had slowed to a crawl, the waves crests were blowing over the bow, and Luna definitely had to tale a potty break. Unfortunately the Jersey coast is essentially one long sand beach, which is great for beach-goers, but horrible for mariners as there’s literally no good harbors to enter if conditions deteriorate. So this made the next stop Atlantic City… which was 40 miles = 7 hours from where we were. This was going to be a longgggggggggggggggg night. (Good thing Sarah knew what she was getting herself into!).

The dogs hated being down below, but given the dark and the rough seas, we couldn’t risk keeping them up top with us.

To make it safely and sanely to Atlantic City, we all took turns at the helm, with periodic sitting/napping breaks in the cabin to stay warm. Despite feeling bad about tossing Sarah into this situation with us, having a third person on the trip was the best thing we could have done. No one was left at the helm alone, and two people on watch is A) safer, and B) less lonely than one freezing sailor. For some reason being in an uncomfortable situation is much more palatable when somebody else is there to share in your discomfort.

Our other saving grace was the full moon. We were cold and tired, but at least we had plenty of moonlight shining down on us. Two other sailboats were visible farther offshore and they affirmed that we weren’t the only crazy ones battling the Jersey coast in the middle of the night.

Around 1am we made the turn for Atlantic City. Approaching Atlantic City from 40 miles away is remarkably eerie. The glow of neon light. The massive scale of buildings. And the seemingly inclosable gap that makes the structures seem so close, despite them actually hours away… And maybe some delirium was setting in too. [Note: no pictures were taken of this leg of the trip.]

Coming in at low, low tide, we briefly ran aground during our first docking attempt (it was just mud), so we settled on a fuel dock space for a 4 hour nap. I have never been happier to curl up into my warm bed in my entire life.

At 5am, we reluctantly peeled ourselves out of our sleeping bag cocoons and started relayering clothing. While walking the dogs, we met two guys on a Bristol 40′ out of Plymouth, MA. Pierre and Alec got a kick out of the dogs (especially Piper’s purple fleece jacket), and they were headed to Cape Ann this morning as well. (Other young people on cruising boats! Yay new friends!)

We left Atlantic City before Pierre and Alec, and motored the rest of the way down the Jersey coast. 6am snack time consisted of the best stale rice cake with peanut butter and banana toppings ever prepared. We had all been too tired and cold to eat dinner last night. Oops.

Dawn of Day 2 was already a thousand times better than the day before. (I guess we really needed that 4 hour nap, huh?) The sun rose bright red East of us, Atlantic City still eerie in the background. Conditions were much calmer and much warmer as the morning progressed. We quickly passed Egg Harbor Bridge, Ocean City beaches, and on and on. The seabirds were everywhere, ambassadors of all the marine life on this southern Jersey coast.

Off Corson Inlet we came across another pod of Bottlenose dolphins and detoured in a large circle to take a closer look. Then, BEST SIGHTING TO DATE: a juvenile humpback whale was subsurface feeding amongst the dolphins. So incredible!! We shut the engine off and drifted with the whale and dolphins for 15 minutes or so. At one point, the whale surfaced 50 ft off the starboard side. (Slowly making last night’s misery worth it!)

For the rest of the day, we had consistent dolphin sightings every 20-30 minutes. Some close to the boat, some further away. A few Bottlenose dolphins even rode our bow for a bit, and we took turns at the helm so everyone had a chance to run up and play with our marine mammal escorts.

After passing the Wildwood roller coasters and ferris wheel, Cape May was an easy ride away. Captain Sarah took us all the way into the Cape May Harbor channel by 1pm.

Cape MayWe paid for a slip at Utsch’s Marina (pronounced “oot-chiz” for future reference – how are you supposed to hail that name over the radio??). Within 10 minutes of tying up we had popped a celebratory bottle of champagne and sat giggling on the boat. Jersey Coast: CONQUERED! It was the worst of times, it was the best of times. Thank goodness we had Sarah!

BubblyLuna - Cape May