Friday, May 25, 2018

Utsch's Marina at Cape May - at a dock

A large convoy of Loopers came in after we arrived
We were afraid of missing low tide at the two 55 ft bridges in the Cape May Canal so we left early at 5:45 am. That was really, really early for us. The sun was rising as we left the anchorage. Last night was not a quiet night. The current runs through there at 2 to 3 kts which is no problem for holding for us but it's noisy and the boat swings from side to side. The main problem with the anchorage is the depth, it's too deep. Once you round the corner, the bottom drops out and the farther in you go, the deeper it gets, all the way down to 50 ft! You could wonder how in the world such a place could exist behind an island but it does. We anchored on the side before going in all the way at 25 ft, deep enough. We have a chain-nylon rode combination and with that depth, the nylon slips in the wildcat which requires pulling the nylon up by hand until the chain is engaged. A really fun exercise in 2 kts of current and a little wind. I can't recommend the anchorage and we only took it because of Hoolie relief nearby.

The docks are floating but the slips are shallow
For once, the forecast was pretty good with winds out of the west around 10 kts so they were on the beam as we headed south. In fact, we made too good a time and got to the bridges too early so I had to idle forward for a while to let the dropping tide catch up. They are redoing the bulkheads by both bridges so there were no height gauges. We had gone through the canal so many times that we didn't need them by just paying attention to the tides. We passed under both bridges without incident.

On the approach to Utsch's, we plowed mud at low tide. We saw the depth meter bottom out at 4.4 ft (we draw 4 ft, 9 in.) so we just powered through the mud. The marina itself was fine at around 8 ft MLW. However, we once again bottomed out at the fuel dock. Ann got us in as far as the depths would allow and we filled up.

The same thing happened again at our slip for the night. At low tide, we are stuck in the mud. Now it's time to start looking at weather reports for a window to reach the Atlantic Highlands. That will be tomorrow's project and perhaps another round for the Weather App Shootout1

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Cohansey Island Anchorage - at anchor

The "Little Engine that Could" is pulling away
If you can't make the trip from Chesapeake City to Cape May in one day, then there are not many options. We like to take advantage of the Cape May Canal but that requires us to transit at low tide. For today, that meant at 11:30 which was too early for us to reach the canal. The trip required us to anchor overnight at Cohansey Island. It's not the most protected but does shield you from a south to southwest wind which is predicted for tonight and tomorrow morning. Looking out over the island, we can see whitecaps on the bay in the non-predicted 12 to 15 kt winds (5 to 10 supposedly) but there are no whitecaps in our anchorage.

One of the few remaining nuclear power plants, located on Delaware Bay
Despite the island between us and the bay, we are still rocking a bit from the waves working their way around the edges of the island but at least there are no whitecaps. Another quirk of the anchorage is how deep it is. Once you round the corner into the anchorage, the bottom drops out and you'll see depths all the way to 50 ft! It seems a little perverse that the best potential anchorage has depths too deep to anchor in! We are on the northern edge, anchored in 25 ft, a compromise between depth and being protected by the island but we are still rocking.

Our island of protection. If you look closely, you can see the whitecaps on the bay.
We have to reach the canal by 11:30 am and it's 33 Nm away, a 4 hr, 30 min trip. We will try to get off our anchor by 6:00 am just to be sure to have enough time to reach the two 55 ft bridges before low tide passes us by.

We have reservations at Utsch's Marine for a few days. We're looking at the weather for the trip up the New Jersey coast and now it looks like Tuesday will be a better day but, who knows? Certainly not the weatherman. The forecasts are usually but not always good for the next 24 hours. Beyond that, you might as well roll the dice.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Chesapeake City - at anchor in a dredged anchorage!

Lots of ships waiting outside Annapolis
The winds were predicted to be 5 to 10 out of the northwest and for the morning, that was the case. However, in the afternoon the winds picked up to 15 kts with gusts to 19 and that was not in the forecast. Luckily, by that time we were in the upper bay where it starts to narrow so it didn't affect us all that much. None of the five apps I'm using nor NOAA predicted the afternoon high winds.

We've seen ocean-going ships barely make it under that bridge
Chesapeake City was a 56 Nm run for us from Rhode River and we got an early start at 7:00 am and reached CC by 3:00 pm. It was a pleasant surprise to find that the Chesapeake City anchorage has been dredged. There's 12 MLW everywhere and even 10 to 12 MLW by the free docks. The entrance is now just down the middle as opposed having to hug the east bulkhead. The turn to port into the anchorage itself is also down the middle. The word is not out yet I guess since there are only three boats here tonight. After dredging, you can expect a very muddy anchor and chain in the morning byt at least you will get a calm night.

Just the three of us here tonight
There seems to be a period of calm weather coming and we intend to take advantage of it to make progress north. On Thursday, we intend anchoring out at Cohansey Island to stage us for reaching Cape May the next day around noon to get under the two Cape May Canal bridges (55 ft each). Looking at the weather, we'll stay there two nights and then, hopefully, head for Atlantic City for just one night and then on to the Atlantic Highlands. At least that's the plan. Time will tell.
Evening at Chesapeake City Anchorage

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Rhode River - at anchor

Hoolie's island. We only use the sandy part of the island.
We had intended to pick up a mooring at Annapolis but when we learned about all the events associated with the Navy commissioning their new officers and the lack of moorings, we decided to duck into Rhode River for a dependable place for the night. We made it just in time, about an hour before a line storm came through and it's still raining as I type.

As at all of our anchorages, there's Hoolie relief nearby at a deserted island. There is a sign up now asking for limited usage to save erosion on the island. From photos in the past, it is getting smaller and smaller. The anchorage here is totally protected from all weather and wave action so it's one of our favorites. We know that the mooring field at Annapolis can get rocky in a southwest wind to the tune of the bow bobbing up and down a couple of feet. You wouldn't think any wave action could get into the mooring field but such is not the case.

Looks like the rain is finally ending, time to take Hoolie ashore
We were supposed to have 5 to 10 kts out of the south and instead it was 15 kts all the way north. It didn't bother us since we had the wind and waves behind us but I wouldn't want to be on a  boat headed south. Not a single weather app or service predicted the 15 kt winds, they all said 5 to 10 kts.

We are looking at the weather to see if we can make Chesapeake City on Wednesday or do we have to duck into Rock Hall. Rain is predicted for the afternoon so Rock Hall may be the best bet. We also heard that Chesapeake City was dredged and now it's 10 ft throughout the anchorage. That's great news for the cruising crowd. We will reach there Wednesday or Thursday and then watch the weather for the jump to the Cohansey anchorage. We like to take the Cape May Canal and high tide is late in the afternoon so we need the stop at Cohansey to stage us for a low tide passage under the 55 ft bridges.

Monday, May 21, 2018

Solomons - at anchor

We call it a bird feeding station - the locals call it a fish weir
The forecast in the morning differed greatly between the apps and will be a good test for Round 2 in the Weather App Shootout to be written later this week, I hope. We accessed the Potomac weather buoy and saw 17 kt winds and decided to stay in for awhile to let the winds calm down. We left eventually around 10:00 and reached Solomons at 4:30. The wind actually died off completely! It turned out to be one of the calmest crossings of the Potomac ever.

What happened to my chain?
The Mill Creek anchorage is famous for its mud. When you pull up the anchor, you can barely see it due to all the mud. It's one place for sure that you want a washdown hose in the anchor locker.

Anchored for the night at Solomons - lots of boats
We are anchored in our favorite spot, the Holiday Inn anchorage where there's a dinghy dock for only $2/day. It's a short ride over for Hoolie and convenient for us. We were planning on picking up a mooring in Annapolis on Tuesday but we heard that the Navy has a big event for the next few days when they commission their new officers. I called ahead and found that the moorings were full! With that, we will aim for Rhode River and just anchor out. We can still reach Chesapeake City from there and there's plenty of room. After that, it's waiting for a window to travel down Delaware Bay.

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Mill Creek Anchorage - at anchor

It really is a  beautiful anchorage
We backed out without a hitch this morning even though there was a sailboat next to us and we only had about two feet of clearance. This time we remembered to release all the lines. The last time we were here, we forgot the mid cleat line and we came to a sudden stop! (me to Ann, "Why did you stop?", reply - unmentionable)

I decided to start Round 2 of the Weather App Shootout. We were headed up the Chesapeake and it can always be chancy on predicting the weather. I will be doing another article for Waterway Guide on the outcome.

Hoolie is fixated on that sandy beach!
We have lost confidence in The Weather Channel. It always seems to predict worst-case weather that rarely materializes. We've gone over to using that works better for us. It's free too.

The anchorage at Mill Creek is classic Virginia. It's rural and peaceful. The depths are around 10 ft and the holding is good. There is total protection from any wave action and there is a high bank with trees on top for pretty good wind shielding too. There is even an area for Hoolie relief at a deserted, sandy beach under a 10-foot high bank.

We will spend the night and leave late morning for Solomons across the Potomac. it's windy in the morning but it calms somewhat later in the day for our crossing. We are still about two weeks behind our schedule of last year but at least we are finally on the move.

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Hampton - still here

Most boaters are still here
I got up at 5:30 to get ready for a 7:00 departure Saturday morning but the weather was not looking good. We're tired of waiting for weather and that's when it's dangerous. You tend to push the forecast to hear on what you want to hear and not the whole story. Hampton didn't sound so bad but then we pulled up the forecast for Deltaville which is along the way for us and that forecast was for rain all day long. So we hemmed and hawed and eventually, we chose to recognize the facts that it would not be a good trip. You do need some level of visibility to see the crab pots and it's generally not fun to motor in the rain anyway. Eventually, reason held sway over desire and we stayed yet another day in Hampton.

Hoolie can look so lonesome when left on the boat
Of the eight boats in the anchorage, three chose to go but the rest stayed. One of the three was headed south anyway, no big deal for them. Once again we are fixated on weather reports and we'll see which one is closest to reality when we eventually shove off, hopefully on Sunday.

I tried repairing the dinghy today. You are supposed to do the repair on land, away from the high humidity of the shore but I didn't have that luxury so I barged ahead with the dinghy still in the water at the aft of the boat. About 1/2 way through the repair, the rains come yet again. That is about the worst thing that came happen when trying to repair a dinghy! So I got out Ann's hair dryer and tried to salvage the project by drying everything off. I'll find out if I succeeded on Sunday. If worse comes to worse, I can always take the old repair off and start over, ugh!

This has got to be a good sign, right!?
The last shower came through a few minutes ago, we hope, and we're set for the night. Sunday is supposed to be windier but out of the southwest which is still good for us going north. We will do a last check in the morning.