Saturday, September 22, 2012

Chesapeake City at anchor

Sunrise at the crowded Cape May anchorage
It was another "crack of dawn" day. We had 65 miles to cover and had to pass through the Cape May Canal at low tide in order to clear the two low bridges. They are advertised as 55 ft at a normal high tide. Our mast is 55.3 feet high so we need a little help from the tides. Still, it's daunting to approach the bridge which is built in a very solid manner and knowing that your slim mast would be destroyed if it came in contact with that bridge. However, we've been through the canal multiple times and survived so we were confident that we could pass once again. With a low tide of 0.4 over datum, we figured Fleetwing had three feet to spare. The power boat behind us was watching us pass under the first bridge and hailed us on the VHF with the message, "You cleared that bridge by 2 or 3 inches!" Now we know that wasn't true and we had one more bridge to go at the same height and the tide was rising. It is very deceiving to gauge the relative height of your mast and a bridge from the ground. You're looking up at an angle and the mast always looks higher than it really is.

Needless to say, we survived the bridges and a shallow spot (down to 5.5 ft MLW) just  before the ferry terminal and headed out into the bay. The 0 to 5 kts of wind we experienced in the canal suddenly spiked to 20 kts with higher gusts! With the tide still outgoing, it was wind against tide and the ride was wild (once again as reminded by the crew). With the waves hitting Fleetwing broadside and the wind blowing the spray, it presented an exciting picture - unfortunately, I was too busy to take any pictures or videos. The excitement continued for the next 5 hours until the outgoing current finally died out and the bay narrowed as we headed north.

There are some very large ships going through the Chesapeake-Delaware Canal!
Entering the Chesapeake-Delaware Canal the current was against us once again. We were concerned about what to expect at Chesapeake City since there were so many boats at the Cape May anchorage (14 in all, more than we had ever seen previously). Sure enough, the Chesapeake City anchorage was almost full but we were able to find a spot and anchored in 15 ft of water with only 60 ft of chain for a 3:1 ratio (counting 5 ft for the water to bow height), a little on the weak side but we couldn't afford to swing very much. As luck would have it, a thunderstorm came through with 20+ winds but we held okay, even on such short scope. I'll describe our new ground tackle at another time.

On Sunday we have to decide whether to press on to Annapolis given that there's a small craft advisory as of tonight for Sunday. I don't think the crew or captain wants another wild ride so soon.