03 September, 2012

Oh say can you sea

Location:  Sassafras River, Chesapeake Bay
Position:  N 39 21.895   W 075 58.887

Labor Day weekend. 

Cape Cod/Buzzards Bay area. 
For those of us who live on our boats and enjoy stopping in quiet, serene anchorages, these two just don't go together.  But that is where we are on the Thursday before the long weekend, the last fling of  summer in the US.   There is no way to escape the crowds and we are trying to decide our best plan of action for the weekend.  Our friends on Osprey and Celilo are going to make the jump down to the Chesapeake Bay but we aren't really prepared for a long trip.

But what the heck!!  What better place to spend the busy Labor Day weekend than out in the Atlantic Ocean?  It is a good weather window and with storms brewing down in the mid Atlantic, who knows when we'll get another opportunity?  At least we don't have to worry about crowded anchorages when we're offshore!

Mark prepares the boat, Julie cooks some passage food, the dinghy is stowed on deck, everything below is well stowed so it won't go flying around while we're underway.  After a flurry of activity  we suppose we're ready.  We all celebrate Mike on Celilo's, 60th birthday with mudslides (a very dangerous drink) ashore and a shared dinner aboard.  6am comes way too soon after a restless night, always the case before a passage, but we suck it up and haul anchor.

We head out into Buzzards Bay with good winds and a good forecast.  By 2:30pm we are passing Block Island, at the eastern end of Long Island.  We set a SW course for a straight shot in the Atlantic, a 230 mile leg.  The sails are set and our plan is to get to a waypoint at the bottom of the Delaware Bay at 4:30am on Monday, 38 hours from now, to catch the tide going up the Bay.  It's not pretty bucking an outgoing tide in the Delaware Bay, especially when the wind is southerly and against the current, which is what the weather gods were predicting.  For now, though, it's just a matter of sit back, enjoy the ride and make sure our timing is as close as possible.

The first night we're romping along on a broad reach at 7, sometimes 8 knots when, just after 9pm, we notice some fireworks off in the distance.  We watch them for over 30 minutes.  It is spectacular, an amazing display.  The thing that intrigues us is that we are 15 miles offshore, so the origin of the fireworks has to be at least that far, somewhere on Long Island AND we can hear the “whee...pow!!” as the fireworks rise and explode.  And we are upwind from the display.  Amazing.

The next night we are 8 miles off Atlantic City, NJ, a big gambling mecca, and we can see all the brightly lit hotels off in the distance.  We see another firework display, not nearly as spectacular but still a lovely surprise.

Around midnight we all decide that we are going to arrive too early so we adjust our sails to slow down - an intriguing and unusual process that we are not used to performing.

At 4:30am we are at our waypoint and enjoy a raucous trip up the bay with a 2.5 knot boost from the current.  At 12:30pm we pop into the Chesapeake Delaware Canal just as the current shifts to take us all the way through the canal and into the Chesapeake Bay.  We have the pleasure of sharing the Canal with an enormous car freighter from Oslo, it's as close as we'd ever want to be to anything that big.  We have to scoot way over to the side to give it room to pass.

As we exit the canal we run through a big thunderstorm with 30 knot winds and lightning striking way too close.  Welcome to the Chesapeake!  We work our way down the bay to the Sassafras River, drop the anchor, and have a good night's sleep.  It has been a long trip, 3 full days and 2 nights, but we were all glad to be back on the Chesapeake, home ground for all 3 boats, and glad to have the miles behind us.

Chilling in the Chesapeake