Sunday, May 22, 2016

Cape May at Utsch's Marina - at their dock

A sailor's friend, a dredge ready and waiting
We got off the anchor at 6:00 am, a new record for us. We had 63 Nm to go and we wanted to be sure to make the low tide passage under the two 55 ft bridges at 3:30 pm. Our mast is 55 ft 3 in and we wanted a safety margin. Not only did you have to look at the tide tables but you also had to consider the water level relative to the low water the tide tables are based upon. If the water is higher than that base value, then there's that much less clearance under the two bridges. The height of the water vs the reference level can be seen here. For today we had a low tide 1 ft higher than normal so the clearance under the bridges was 1 ft less than what was predicted by the tide tables. We did reach the bridges at 0.4 MLW per the tide tables and adding the 1 ft higher than normal tides, the total came to 1.4 ft above the datum the bridge height measurements are based upon. So instead of the height boards on the bridge reading 58 ft at 0.0 MLW, today they read 56.25 ft, still enough for my 55 ft 3 in mast.

Coming down the bay it was cold! The sun hid behind lots of clouds and it was raining on and off all day. We had chosen today due to the winds out of the north. We've learned the hard way that you do not travel on Delaware Bay with the wind in your face. With the speed of the tides (up to 2.5 kts) a very bad situation can develop with wind against the tide, life threatening even.

We are deep inside the marina, very secure
With the wind behind us, we made good time to Cape May, arriving by 2:30 pm at Utsch's Marina. It's completely protected on all sides. They employ at full time dredger but when they said they had 7 ft at low tide I was skeptical but in coming in a low tide, that's what I saw.

The weather is not good for getting up the Jersey shore until Wednesday, lots of north winds until then. Hopefully we can get to Atlantic City on Wednesday and then make the long leg to Atlantic Highlands on Thursday. We can hope.


Unknown said...

Did you mean the Chesapeake or the Delaware when you wrote your wind against tide comment?
Fair winds & Smooth sailing,
Elaine & Lawrence S/V Elle & I

Bob423 said...

Lawrence, it's the Delaware Bay where it you never want to have wind against tide. The tide flows up to 2.5 kts, sometimes higher, and you can get row upon row of square waves crashing over the bow if you go into them. The Chesapeake does not have such high current and although wind against tide is not pleasant, it's not like Delaware Bay.

An added hazard is near the mouth of the bay where a swell coming in from the ocean against an outgoing tide will turn the swell into ugly, short period waves. If you venture around the cape in those conditions (e.g., not use the canal) you can find standing waves where your bow will cut off the tops and the water will slide down the deck towards the cockpit, not good! That said, I have on occasion rounded the cape in calm conditions taking the inside, close to shore route when the tides were not right for the canal.

Bob423 said...

Lawrence, just to clarify, the most I'll tolerate in a forecast for wind against tide is under 10 kts. Going wind with the tide is fine up to 20 kts for a short period since going down the bay means the tide will turn against you before reaching the cape, then the forecast had better show that wind dying off like it did Sunday: 10 to 15 kts with the current in the morning and then under 10 when the current reversed further down the bay. The above comments only apply to Delaware Bay.

Going up the bay is another story. If you start with a flood tide, you'll have it all the way up the bay so you'll want the wind behind you. Conversely, if you start out with an ebb tide you'll buck it most of the way north.

Unknown said...

Thank you, Bob. Top notch information!

Lawrence Leonard S/V Elle & I