South to Chesapeake Bay

We depart Block Island at sunrise bound for Cape May, NJ. This is a 200 mile offshore run past the approaches to NYC. On the trip up to Maine it was night and we sailed through a rather large fishing fleet as well as other vessels making the transit interesting. This time we will pass most of this traffic during daylight hours. A fishing vessel appears on AIS off our bow several miles ahead moving from port to starboard. We monitor carefully and determine at our current speed and course we will pass safely astern. We close the distance between us. She is now close but as soon as she crosses our track and is headed safely away from us she turns 180 degrees and Tivoli is now directly in her path. The captain has the nerve to hail us on the VHF and ask if we really intend to pass across his bow! I manage to remain polite and indicate we will speed up and be out of his way as soon as possible. Takes all kinds!

Seas are 2-4 feet with 10 second periods; nice ride. Sky is clear and the moon rises 30 minutes after sunset and sets 30 minutes before sunrise; a nice full moon evening awaits. Winds are light at 5 knots. Couldn’t ask for better conditions. We conduct our routine engine room checks, Tivoli is running smoothly, all is well. The passage overnight unfolds without incident. The moon rises large and bright orange, fading to silver, illuminating our way the entire passage. By dawn we near the New Jersey coast and soon we are entering the Cape May inlet. The tide is running out the inlet and meeting incoming seas creating a nice washbowl to transit among all sorts of traffic including small boats anchored in the navigation channel fishing.

We had arranged a berth at South Jersey Marina; it is very nice but tight. Full of sport fishing boats backed into their slips. Turning space is limited and there is a current and light wind. We are asked to hover off the marina while they tie up Sea Dweller. We jockey Tivoli to hold her in place trying not to hit a nearby piling or adjacent boats only feet away. This can be tricky with a single-engine boat. Finally we get the green light and enter the fairway. Confusion about which slip we were to use resulted in us entering the slip bow first with the finger pier alongside our starboard. This is how we always dock except in this case the pier is about 3 feet too short; can’t get off the boat. What a dilemma. Pull out of the slip and back in this tight marina with wind and current? My favorite thing? Or think outside the box? I go up to the boat deck and retrieve our nice aluminum telescoping ladder we use to reach gear mounted on the stack. We extend it to the required length, lash it to the rail, and we are good to go. Of course, we look like yahoo’s but we spare the potential indignity of damage to us or others.

We join our friends on Sea Dweller and ride a shuttle into Cape May and enjoy the afternoon walking the beach road, exploring the downtown area including the elegant Congress Hall hotel, and enjoying lunch at Fins. Cape May is a neat town and definitely worth a stop. It appears to be an odd mixture of 18th century and mid-century buildings but the Victorian style structures with their ornate trim and elaborate paint schemes are charming.

We depart South Jersey marina at 7 AM, enter the canal and exit onto Delaware Bay. Though broad the Bay is shallow. Our course is carefully laid out to avoid the 6-7 foot spots at MLLW until we reach the ship channel. Then, it’s a leisurely run up the Bay. Only two ships pass us and we give them wide berth; one is doing 12 knots and the other 18 and they soon recede into the distance. Our AP70 autopilot has a handy feature allowing us to offset a course to port or starboard by any distance we choose. As these big ships approach from astern we simply offset the course to starboard, Tivoli jogs to starboard then parallels our original track. When the vessel is past we simply cancel the offset and the vessel turns to intercept our course. This feature is also useful when following popular Explorer routes in the Bahamas. With the number of boats using these routes and the accuracy of GPS tracking one could easily imagine a collision occurring between two vessels on the same course going in opposite directions. Dialing in an offset reduces the odds of that happening.

We experience nice weather, have a good run, and tie up at Summit North marina for the evening. Summit North is large but nearly empty. We soon discover the power pedestal we are directed to has 50 Amp receptacles but only 120 VAC. We pull the boat forward to the next pedestal; it has 50 Amp but 208 VAC. This is not uncommon but creates issues for Tivoli as our air conditioning units refuse to run at such a low voltage; they expect at least 215 VAC. We deploy an auxilliary 50 Amp shore power cord for this circumstance to separate air conditioning loads from other AC loads. That didn’t help, so we alternate our use of our air conditioning units. Not a big deal. We could have simply turned on our genset and produced our own 240 VAC but would rather not annoy the neighbors with noise and diesel fumes.

We wait until high tide at 11 AM to depart as the marina is shallow. We spin Tivoli around and head for the marina entrance at dead slow. At one point we have 0.5 feet under the keel; reminds us of the Bahamas! We exit without incident and proceed down the Chesapeake and Delaware canal and soon enter the north end of Chesapeake Bay. The scenery is idyllic; wooded hills dotted with beautiful waterside homes, open pastures, the occasional small marina, boats plying the ship channel. Another beautiful day on the water!

We follow our friends on Sea Dweller into Rock Creek and drop the hook for the evening. They run over in their tender and take us to a local restaurant, Mike’s, where we enjoy some fresh Maryland crab cakes.

After a dead-calm evening, we depart for Annapolis, a short 20-mile run. We decided to take a mooring ball in Spa Creek, pass Naval Academy, downtown Annapolis, Ego Alley, etc. We wait 20 minutes for the Spa Creek bascule bridge to open; jockeying Tivoli around to hold her steady in wind and current. We run through the narrow channel; tree-lined, lovely homes all around till we reach the end where several mooring balls suitable for boats our size are available.

As we rig our mooring gear a fellow on a paddleboard stands by filming the whole exercise with his cell phone. Privacy is dead. Picking up the mooring ball went well except the pennant was too short and difficult to reach from the high bow of Tivoli. Further, we grabbed a dock line too long for the task and fumbled with that until we got it secured. Took several tries. Oh well, everybody has a bad day. Nobody is hurt, nothing is damaged. But, I’m sure it looks hilarious and expect a YouTube “how not to pick up a mooring ball” video.

Soon we are settled in, ready to visit Annapolis again and get caught up on emails, blog posts, etc.

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