Friday, August 30, 2013

Cape May to Sandy Point, New Jersey - Back into the Big Blue

As the tide was still running out we made good progress towards the Cape and the channel out through the shoals.  We hauled the mainsail in anticipation for the force 3-4 winds which were forecasted at the point.   Once we were half a miles off the Cape the swell started to build a little and it actually felt like we were back out to sea. 

We rushed around to prepare for a night at sea, wet weather gear at the ready, life jackets at the ready, bunk in saloon ready for sleeping, emergency grab bag at the ready, it all felt a little daunting.

As darkness fell Amanda headed off to bed, having been tired all day after the previous night, the engine was still running although both sails were out trying to make the most of any wind, currently force 2 so not enough to sail.  Once we were 1.5 miles off shore we could focus on heading north east along the shore line and far enough out from the shoals but you could still see the light from the land and Atlantic City was lit up like a Christmas tree.  Other boating traffic was steady during the night but often with little idea on type of vessel due to complicated lights, only to find it was a tug towing a barge or something similar.

Stunning sunset on our first night back in the big sea 
The frustration of light winds continued and eventually the foresail was put away and we motored as conservatively as possible hoping to conserve our fuel, we had not expected to motor the entire journey.  In the early hours of the morning before the sun came up the fog set in, visibility must have been less than ¼ mile and everything on the boat became saturated. Mark finally went off to bed and Amanda continued into the fog, thankfully this lifted not long after first light.

Suns up and we are motoring on the flat seas

The boredom of the motoring continued but by late morning the force 2 occasionally reached force 3 and the foresail was out to help increase our speed.  By this time we were back to seeing the sandy shore line of the New Jersey coast and dodging the little fishing boats that were darting in and out of the inlets.  The sea was flat and we could even occasional spot a dolphin.  We passed the day by trying to read or type the occasional email whilst constantly adjusting the sails to gain as much speed as we could.  It was a relief when we finally reached Sandy Hook and rounded into the Bay although these are often the most frustrating times when you can see your destination but still have a couple of hours to go!

Rounding Sandy Point, not far to go

But thankfully before it became dark we headed into the harbour at Atlantic Highlands, New Jersey, dropped anchor and looked forward to the peace of no engine!

Almost made it to the anchorage so have time to take photo of the sun setting

All safe at anchorage at Atlantic Highland

Beyond Baltimore

We left Baltimore on another very grey day and even as we filled with fuel the heavens opened. Our 25 miles/sail across the bay was mainly in torrential rain, impossible visibility, short chopping water and very gusty winds but at least we could sail :). We were grateful to get the beautiful sheltered anchorage of Still Pond.

Mark in the rain

Up and off the next day, had wanted to visit Havre De Grace but with the weather forecast this was not going to be possible as the anchorage there would offer no sheltered but managed another 15 miles and anchored of some military land in the Susquehanna river.  Most of the afternoon and evening they were testing some sort of guns/bombs, each bang making us jump. This was our first night we had experienced a big storm whilst at anchor, thankfully we had lots of room to swing around and our anchor was fine but a bit of a sleepless night.

All the rain had passed and we set off in beautiful sunshine, the countryside here was very pretty in this part of the Bay and probably even nicer due to it being a sunny day.

Beautiful morning on Susquenanna River
Our aim for the day was to reach the Chesapeake and Delaware canal, quite obviously this joins the 2 bays.  There is a small basin a few miles along the canal where Chesapeake City is located, actually much more a small village than a city.  With a couple of quaint street, with a few touristy shops and restaurants, it is that small that there was not even a grocery store.  There is a small marina attached to the Chesapeake Inn which is small hotel and restaurant/bar and where the entertainment is over the summer.  After only 3 days of not being ashore we were enjoying being on land and decided to sample the local cocktails and pizza J

Cocktail number 1

Cocktail number 2

Oh they also have a great ice cream parlour, not had an icecream since April, so treated ourselves.  This was also another prime example of how the Americans have been really kind, we were asking the young guy who worked in the parlour where we could get milk, he confirmed there was nowhere local but his sister was coming into the shop later and she would pick some up for us, how very nice of him.

Great icecream palour

The view from the boat in the yacht basin at Chesapeake City
When we reached Delaware Bay the water opened up and we struggled against the north going current as we tried to head south down the bay.  Like Chesapeake Bay it is very shallow outside the main channel but we were able to creep along in the shallower water to avoid some of the current but with no wind the Bay was flat and all we had to worry about was avoiding hundreds of fishing buoys.

35 miles and we reached Cohansey River. There is a 12ft dredged channel into this river, or that is what the pilot books/charts tell you! As we edged across the current we passed over a sill at the entrance with about 30cm to spare, our initially thought was we were happy to not have gone aground which was quickly followed by how would we get out in the morning! After a restless night with turning tides and strong winds bumping us around, we were up at 6.30 hoping that we would have enough tide to get out.

Unfortunately not! Yes we were aground on the mud with no way off, we dropped anchor and decided we would need to wait for the tide to rise.  A passing fishing boat came to investigate and told us the water was deep, not believing we could be aground.  Of he went picking up crab pots but 10 minutes later he was back and offering to pull us off, he tied off a rope on Magnums bow and pulled us into deep water where we again dropped anchor, admired the view, ate breakfast and watched the painfully slow tide rise. 2 hours later and we tried again, we did it, hurrah, again with only 30cm below the keel but that was all we needed.

Pretty place to be stuck on the mud!!
I would like to say the day got better but with wind on the nose and current against us we motored south.  After several hours of thinking the engine wounded a bit odd, Mark inspected the engine and the impeller was in pieces, so we had to switch off the engine and drift around whilst he replaced.  By this time with a new weather forecast, tides dropping in our route of through the Cape May canal we had to change our plans and head straight out to big sea!

Monday, August 26, 2013

Baltimore - Into the Big City

What will be our lasting memories of Baltimore? We seemed to have walked miles and seen a little :). As we approached Baltimore on a grey day it was quite impressive to see the skyscrapers in the distance, seemed quite exciting to be arriving in a city.

Baltimore skyline on a grey day
There was a reasonable anchorage in between 2 marinas which was ideal for us, there was a near by public dock where we could tie our dingy and Safeway supermarket across the road although it was about 30 minutes walk into the main town. Although pretty quiet since we were in a city, our first morning we were woken with an odd boat noise outside, they were cleaning the water with a very cool boat.

Harbour cleaning boat
Baltimore harbour was busy with tourists which was not surprising in August, the Aquarium is one of the main attractions, we would have loved to have visited but after our experiences of busy museums in Washington we put off. The harbour is surrounded by bars and restaurants and a nice place to watch world go by.
Baltimore harbour on another grey day

Baltimore harbour

We were anchored of an area called Canton and 10 minutes walk from Fells Point both of which are residential areas almost with a village feel as they have lots of lovely restaurants and pubs, actually like the pubs in England. We had a really nice night out for Marks birthday, starting with beers at pub followed by cocktails at fancying restaurant.

Mark enjoying a birthday beer

View from our lovely restaurant

Mmmmm blueberry vodka was delicious and Mark's Barrs Gin blew his head off

Amanda admiring the view

Amanda and Mark feeling the effects of the cocktails :)
We had an interesting trip to the Walters Art Museum which was more of a gallery and much bigger than we expected, with exhibitions on Greeks, Egyptians, Asia, it was even better since it was free and it was raining most of that day!

We did explore the town a bit more, there was a good view of the harbour and the empty marina from Federal Hill. One of our other memories is the runners! A path ran around the waterfront and there was a constant stream of runners all day and even we hen we looked out in the early hours when it was still dark!  A fit city.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Annapolis - Boats, boats and more boats

As we left Soloman the race boats were heading out for the day, it was great to see so many enthusiastic sailors.

Following the race boats

Getting ready to race!
Lucky for us and the race we had some unexpected wind, so off went the engine, it was not nice to be sailing again even if it WS only very slow. With stronger winds up to 20 knots forecast for the next day we decided to continue at snails pace but keep our journey short. We made our first stop on the east coast of the Bay, at Little Choptank.

The bizarre structures you sea in the Bay! We are still not sure what this was

Islands in the middle of the Bay
Next day we had our best day of sailing since arriving in US, we had 12-15 knots constantly and although sailing in and out of the mud banks is a little challenging we had a wonderful sail.  Our destination was a small creek off South River which is just south of Annapolis. As we crept into the creek we closely looked at the charts and headed for the middle of the 2 channel markers. Then disaster struck, Magnum came to a slow muddy stop! Immediately we went into reverse, no that was not going to work, we pulled out the head sail to gain some heal but with 15+ knots this only really drove us forward. So we launched the dingy and took our second anchor astern, where Mark dropped and Amanda set about winching us backwards, again no success. A small power boat with a family who had been anchored in the creek and were leaving approached us, could they help? We hoped so. We tied a line off on the rear cleat and threw this to them, after several attempts they had the line tied off, not easy when they were trying to avoid Magnum and the 2nd anchor line which was still in the water. They pulled for what seemed like a lifetime with no movement and then suddenly we were free, fantastic. We were off and they were on their way home, we did not even have a chance to give them a bottle of wine. Next job was to recover the anchor but before we knew it the line was around the rudder, so we dropped anchor and Mark went in to free the line, with that done Mark took the dingy out to recover the anchor, next challenge as it was stuck!  No amount of motoring with daisy dingy would shift it, so Mark tied off a buoy, we then had to up anchor and edge over there with Magnum, Mark hooked the bouy from the bow and Amanda motored astern and we had success. 
Amazing how our small fortress anchor holds in mud, it weighs nothing but when its dug in it takes a lot if force to shift it, fantastic bit of kit.

We tried again at entering the creek, thankfully this time we made it and were pleased when we could relax with a beer!
Mark under the water searching for the anchor but not even being able to see his hand in front of his face!

The Ospreys with baby in the nest were almost as stressed as us about us being so close

Harness Creek was actually a really lovely it anchorage, one side is private properties but the other is Quiet Waters park which had a public dingy dock attached to a water sports centre. We could easily gain access to the park for a morning run and with our bikes we could cycle into Annapolis, whilst still having a beautiful sheltered anchorage at night.

Beautiful and peaceful Harness Creek

Annapolis is a very pretty town and a sailing hub, it was a settlement as early as the 1600 but was not named Annapolis until 1702, after Princess Anne who later became Queen of England. The State House in Annapolis served as the US capitol building for a short period and was also where the Treaty of Paris was signed which ended the American Revolution.

The State House
The old town and main street are lined with quaint bars, restaurants, shops and ice cream parlours, it is very much a tourist resort, we visited on a weekday and it was nearly as busy as a Saturday when it is packed with people and boats.

Main Street running down to the waterfront

One of the beautiful old houses which like the streets around the main street

Pretty houses and beautifully maintained

Annapolis also has a significant Naval presence, the Naval Academy was established in 1845 with 50 students in 10 acres, it now 338 acres with around 4500 midshipmen. They open the academy to the public, with all the grounds accessibly and a few of the building.  We first headed to see their race boats which were all immaculately maintained.

As it was summer break the student activity was limited but there were some students and you would here them before you see them.

Midshipmen marching outside Bancroft Hall which is the memorial hall and dormitory - we assumed these were all very new recruits as very young
The memorial hall was really impressive with the wall inscribed with midshipmen who had graduated from the academy and had been killed whilst in service.

Bancroft Hall

Entrance to the Memorial Hall


The Memorial Hall
Annapolis is a big boaty destination and all along the water front there are either marinas or private slips.

Spa Creek Annapolis - view from bridge crossing the river

Spa Creek Annaplois - view the other way from bridge

Spa Creek

Busy mooring field in distance in Spa Creek
We said goodbye to the lovely Harness Creek and Quiet Water Park and headed back into South River and to Crab Creek.

Saying goodbye to Harness Creek
We were visiting Crab Creek to see the Port Officer for the Ocean Cruising Club, after recently becoming members we wanted to try to take advantage of the Port Officers local knowledge.  Crab Creek is marked as private on the chart so other than 1 boat on a mooring buoy and the boats on private slips at the end of gardens we had the place to ourselves.  It was secluded, sheltered and surround some beautiful properties.  Wolfgang the Port Officer lived in a lovely house overlooking the river and made us feel more than welcome, providing maps and advice on the normal boat bits and pieces but also sharing some of his interesting life stories J We spent a few days here either rushing around to boaty shops or enjoying the beautiful surroundings.

The beautiful crab creek

Crab Creek and Wolfgangs boats on his slip in distance 

One of our neighbours beautiful properties - looked big enough to be a hotel!

Magnum at anchor in Crab Creek