24 November 2010

Delaware Challenge

So, the tacks worked and I wasn't devoured by mutant crayfish. But some time during the night someone -- or some thing -- made off with summer.

I didn't really want to leave my warm sleeping bag, but nothing for it... I needed to catch my tide down the cold, gray Delaware.

Firing up my little one burner, gimbaled stove to make coffee and porridge warmed up my little cabin nicely, but after checking email and wondering if it was too early to call Helena, I ran out of excuses and cracked open the companionway hatch. A pink glow was just starting in the still starry sky. The Blue Moon was tugging at her anchor, and a 2 knot current gurgled along her waterline.

Man, it was cold. Hard to believe I'd been hot in shorts, yesterday.

In a few minutes, I had the engine running and the anchor line straight up and down, proving I'd done this often enough in the dark, half asleep. In another minute, the anchor was broken out and we were steaming through the narrow gap in the breakwater. No wind yet, but the forecast called for a 10-15 knot NW wind later in the morning. Perfect for a fast run down the bay.

With a good tailwind and a strong current flowing with us, I thought we'd make Cape May by late afternoon.

I said we we weren't bothered by mutant crayfish, but we did pass an odd looking ship... Definitely some chromosome damage in the ship... Or maybe the designer.

Mutant ship?
photo jalmberg

By mid-morning, the promised NW wind was filling in, and I soon had the sails up and pushing us along at 5 knots, dead down wind. A bit chilly, but great sailing. I sneered at the cruising guides for again exaggerating the difficulties. This was going to be a snap.

A half hour later, I wondered if I should get them down again while I still could.

The wind had increased to 15 knots. Just a nice breeze for the Blue Moon, normally, but this wind had kicked up the most absurd breaking seas I'd ever seen. Tall, fast, and vicious, they were already giving Helmo, my auto tiller, problems.

Studying the chart, my heart sunk. We were still in the Delaware River, really. Just at the mouth of the Bay. Looking how the river and bay ran south east, it belatedly occurred to me that a strong northwest wind might not be the best thing for a comfy cruise, after all.

Well, if it was this bad in the river, after just half an hour, how bad would it be 30 miles down wind in the afternoon? I didn't want to find out. Luckily, the one and only port of refuge on the whole Delaware was still down wind of me. It would have been hell to beat back to it.

So I made for the Cohansey River, studying the chart to avoid the many shoals between me and the inlet. I was hand steering by now, surfing down seemingly enormous waves. It was too late to take down the sails. I'd do that once inside the protected river. Unfortunately, I had to turn to the north to make the inlet. That put the wind and waves hard on our port side. The Blue Moon didn't seem to mind, but I didn't much like getting knocked around and was glad of my safety line.

Another, much larger, sailboat was also heading for the Cohansey. He was ahead of us by now. It made me a little queasy to see how he rolled, until I realized we were probably rolling even more!

I was glad to have a boat to follow in, since it was hard to spot the entrance to the river. The spray was flying, making it even harder!

Finally, the first boat was through, and we weren't far behind. For a final scare, the depth sounder flashed 4.2 feet at the entrance. There must have been a bar across the inlet. That got my heart running, since the BM draws 4 feet, but we flew over it with a few inches to spare, and shot into the wide, deep, almost miraculously still Cohansey River.

Welcome to New Jersey!

I dragged down soaking wet sails, and headed up river to The Marina That Time Forgot...

The Marina That Time Forgot
photo jalmberg

>>> Next Episode: An yll wynde

1 comment:

  1. You need to park it for the winter and go home.
    Wind and weather is bad on the ocean and bays. Its cold out there.


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