A little help from our friends

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Having sailed down the East River through New York city and still floating on that high, we steered for Sandy Hook, NJ just across the bay from NYC. We pulled in just as it was getting dark and put the anchor down behind a breakwater next to The Atlantic Highlands marina. We raced to get our dinghy in the water and outboard engine on the back so Al could make it to the dock in time to fill a couple of jerry cans with extra fuel.

The view of NYC from Sandy Hook, New Jersey
The view of NYC from Sandy Hook, New Jersey
Chalk art in NYC - called Island of Privilege
Chalk art in NYC – called Island of Privilege
Good clean air!
Good clean air!

We had two factors to contend with on this leg of our journey which would eventually end in Annapolis. Hurricane Matthew was coming up the coast and the New Jersey shore loomed large. There’s not a lot to choose from in terms of anchorages on the New Jersey coast, because the waters are shallow and there’s some tricky tides and currents on that coast that shift the sands, so entrances to harbours tend to fill in and boats can run aground, even if they follow the charts. We decided to fuel up and if conditions were good we’d get as far as possible down the coast ahead of weather and avoid sketchy harbour entrances.

There are two options to make it down this coast, either enter the Inter Coastal Waterway (ICW) or sail outside the coast in the Atlantic Ocean. As our mast is too high for many of the bridges and frankly because we favour ocean sailing, we chose to go outside. Fortunately we have a friend back home who was sending us 2 daily detailed weather reports, on the state of the hurricane which was extremely helpful. Thank you Kris!

We arose before the crack of dawn and headed out the bay, round the hook of Sandy Hook (guess that’s where it gets it’s name) and out into the Atlantic. It felt so good to be sailing again! Our original plan had been to stop in Barnaget Bay, about 50 nms from where we started. However, there were several boats out that day and one of them, S/V Dagny, hailed us on VHF early in the day. Bev and Alan, it turns out are fellow Canadians and wondered where we were going and what our plans were. They informed us they were heading to Atlantic City, which was further than we’d planned, almost 86 nm down the shore.  This would mean we’d be arriving in the dark, but on the plus side, it has a clearly marked entrance. Making it to Atlantic City would put us in a good position to make it to the town of Cape May the next day and set us up for rounding the cape into Delaware Bay. Our goal was to sail up the Delaware Bay and access the Delaware Chesapeake canal, a short cut into Chesapeake Bay. With Hurricane Matthew coming up the coast, our intention was to get into Chesapeake Bay, a protected area with little history of hurricane strikes. In addition, there was some high winds coming in a couple of days so if we didn’t haul ass we could get stuck out on the New Jersey coast and it really is not a hospitable place for a sailboat to be in gusty winds.

Fishers on the Beach outside Sandy Hook
Fishers on the Beach outside Sandy Hook
Filly was pretty stoked with Atlantic City
Filly was pretty stoked with Atlantic City
Atlantic City
Atlantic City
Al & Filly
Al & Filly
Mexican tacos = yummy
Mexican tacos = yummy
Wee, we are sailing!
Wee, we are sailing!

We heard a conversation between Dagny and another sailboat, S/V Thistle who were heading as far as Cape May that day. As we were making good headway and we were in the company of these two sailboats, we decided to push on and pulled into Atlantic City at around 7pm that night.  It was dark by that time but the blinding lights of Atlantic City made the place easy to find and we made it safely inside with time to lower the anchor alongside Dagny.

Filbert was fascinated with the lights and general bustle of activity all around us and I had to coax him into the boat for the night. I would have loved to have let him roam on deck but there was significant tide where we anchored, near a bridge and I was afraid he might slip off the deck. So we all settled in for a good nights rest after a gourmet meal of chips and beer. The glamorous life of the cruiser.😉

The next morning we left Atlantic city, with cumulus clouds building on the horizon and a decent swell that threatened to make our sail less than ideal but once we got underway conditions were perfect. Our destination was Cape May, a town near the tip of the southern New Jersey shoreline. We dropped anchor and were surrounded by fellow Canadian and US sailors who were all headed up the Delaware Bay next day. We were also finally going to meet Bev and Allan in person, who we arranged to meet for dinner that night in the town.

I took the opportunity to take my TRX up on deck and get a workout in, as it isn’t always easy to squeeze one in. Al says he has no need to actually purposefully work out because sailing is enough to keep him in shape.  After a shower we headed into town and met up with Bev and Allan, who were tied up at a dock alongside some friends of theirs who just happened to be in the same marina. We had a fabulous meal, the seafood was excellent, and had an even better time getting to know Bev and Allan.

Nuclear plant at the end of Delaware Bay
Nuclear plant at the end of Delaware Bay
Tug boats in Delaware Bay
Tug boats in Delaware Bay
Seagull sail race
Seagull sail race
Cumulus clouds
Cumulus clouds
Captain Al ever diligent on the wheel
Captain Al ever diligent on the wheel

The next morning we headed out early to get a head start before the winds were scheduled to pick up to 25 knots. Rounding Cape May can be a bit gnarly as there are many shoals and boats typically have to go out outside and around to avoid them, adding a couple of hours to the trip.  There is a canal, Cape May canal that provides a short cut across the cape but our mast is to high for the 55 foot bridge. There were many boats out that morning and as we navigated out of the channel many of them headed close to land choosing an inside channel. Dagny had also come to the same conclusion after talking with Thistle, who was heading closer to the coast. The currents and tides here were significant and the depths were really shallow. At one point it was 6 feet of water under our keel. Coming from Newfoundland where 100 feet of water is shallow, this can be a real mind blower but all went well and we made it around the cape into the Delaware Bay.

There were about 14 sailboats and 10 power boats who travelled up the Delaware Bay that day, all trying to reach the entrance to the Delaware Chesapeake canal. The sail was one of the best we had since leaving with awesome winds and beautiful company all around us. Thistle passed us halfway up the bay and Dagny caught us before we reached the canal. At this point we still had not met the awesome crew on Thistle, Linda and Grinnell, but hoped to connect somewhere in the bay.   Delaware Bay is awesome with huge tide markers covered in cormorants, large container ships and a large and looming nuclear plant at the end of the bay.

We reached the canal at least 2 hours earlier than expected due to the excellent sailing conditions. Once again, tides and currents play a significant factor in how comfortable and speedy your transit will be in the canal and lucky for all of us that day we nailed it and the tide and current played in our favor. We decided to pull into a small town inside the canal called Chesapeake city and put the anchor down. Al dinghied over to invite Bev and Allan on board for a happy hour drink. Getting to meet fellow cruisers is a blast, and Bev and Allan are super sweet and fun. We planned on hanging out for the next couple of days and eventually make it to Annapolis.

The next morning we sailed out of Chesapeake city, very carefully I might add as we had seen less than 1 foot under the keel coming in the night before. The Chesapeake is a beautiful and lush bay but very shallow so you have to be very careful when navigating that you do not end up on a sandbar or a shoal. Theres a great variety of birds in the area as well and we saw eagles fishing and birds of prey riding thermals for hours.

Sailing down the Chesapeake Bay
Sailing down the Chesapeake Bay
Dagny in Chesapeake City
Dagny in Chesapeake City
Pretty house in Galena
Pretty house in Galena
People shadows walking into Galena
People shadows walking into Galena
A pensive Al
A pensive Al
Sunset in the Sassafras
Sunset in the Sassafras

Our next destination was the Sassafras river, and not only because it sounded cool. I don’t know why but I just love the word Sassafras. We headed into the Sassafras because Steve, a fellow boater from RNYC, had been in here earlier the year and recommended it as a good hurricane hole. As we sailed up the bay we were struck by the lushness of the area and the refuge it offered. We were concerned at the time that Hurricane Matthew would continue a northwesterly track and potentially cause some problems for us but thankfully it veered offshore. Al had read that the Annapolis region had never had a direct hit by a hurricane and that’s what we were counting on.

We anchored in a secluded cove that had several marinas and many boats on moorings. We headed into town, a pretty 1.5 km walk part farmers fields and lovely houses, in order to get provisions. There was an amazing little market that offered an excellent variety of local produce, organic groceries and homemade bottled pickles and veggies. After filling our bags and walking back to our boat we headed over to Dagny for a get together before turning in for the night. The night was perfectly still as we motored back to our boats, and we were treated to a painters sunset, only to be bested by a silver sliver of moon and twinkling star filled sky. It’s days like this that make us supremely happy and content to be living this life.

Once again we checked the weather to determine what the hurricane was doing and decided that it was probably safe enough to head to Annapolis. There was a boat show in Annapolis that weekend and we had a few items that we needed to research. Before we head offshore there are several things we have to clue up such as single side band (SSB) for communicating, buoying up our power reserve and we also wanted to meet the Salty Dawg group to determine if we would join them on their rally to the BVIs.

Home Life
Home Life
B&W Fillybear
B&W Fillybear
Filly after his swan encounter
Filly after his swan encounter
Heading into dinner
Heading into dinner
I baked scones using buckwheat and unbleached flour.
I baked scones using buckwheat and unbleached flour.
Sunning on deck
Sunning on deck

We had an uneventful sail down Chesapeake Bay and arrived in Annapolis around noon. We had intended on dropping our anchor inside the bridge but the harbour master informed us that it was full so instead we put our anchor down just outside the downtown hub, next to the Naval Academy, and a short ride from the boat show. We’d had a fun week sailing the New Jersey coast and after closely monitoring the weather, we were happy to have finally made it to our destination in Annapolis.

Life aboard is wonderful and fulfilling but the people we are meeting is the cherry on top. It’s challenging and we are learning a great deal but with a little help from our friends we’re able to arrive safely, and feel comfortable with less stress and more smiles.

Bridge over Chesapeake Bay
Bridge over Chesapeake Bay
Bev & Allan
Bev & Allan
We have arrived in Annapolis!
We have arrived in Annapolis!
Peek a boo Captain Al
Peek a boo Captain Al

Author: tess

A full-time adventurer, I am sailing our 37-foot Tartan with my husband and kitty, to the Caribbean from Newfoundland while documenting it on our blog, greatbigsail.com

14 thoughts on “A little help from our friends”

  1. Brian, I also love the map.
    Last week, I googled US coastlines to view where you were.
    US geography isn’t my forte, now I’m learning as you go on your way.

  2. Love to read your adventures – I read them to Eddy as his eyes are not good – he certainly would have loved this adventure. Talked with Geri today – Gladys was having a rest – think of her so often – we loved being buddies as she was/is so young in all aspects – loved being with your Mom and Dad – loved to hear Jack singing the Candy Man. Wonderful memories!
    Take care and all the very best – God Bless!

  3. AFT,

    While Jac quotes Dylan, I thought I’d contribute my own ditty.

    I know a girl from sassafras
    She’s got pimples on her ass
    Some are big, some are small
    Some you can hardly see at all

    As always your photos are beautiful, I love the bridge over Chesapeake Bay another cool name, but not as cool as Sassafras. You mentioned in a previous post about your new fascination with bridges. When I drove through New Brunswick, not Sassafras, I fell in love with covered bridges.

    No matter where you go, there’s always a challenge, when it comes to sailing, in this case a sandbar or a shoal. By the time you two finish this journey, you’ll be able to navigate anywhere.

    Carry on, my favourite crew.
    Ger

    So when I come back from the afterlife, I want to live in Sassafras as Filbert.
    As always, your photos are beautiful.

    1. 😝that was a good one to wake up and read. Sassafras.

      So many bridges & everyone is unique; it would make you wish you’d been an engineer. I imagine covered Bridges would be splendid.

      Yup I think we could probably navigate around the world. 🌎 and thanks for complimenting my pics. They take time to process but to go back and review them all is a flask I love. I’m always surprised.

      Thanks for the message. Love from the crew.

  4. “Oh the time will come up
    When the winds will stop
    And the breeze will cease to be breathin’
    Like the stillness in the wind
    Before the hurricane begins
    The hour that the ship comes in.”

    Your blog brought this song to my mind and probably cause Bob was awarded the nobel peace prize for lit this week. Fitting song nonetheless.

    I really love the photo of Manhattan from the Sandy Hook view. I’d like to put it on my bedroom was as a mural. Cause as you know grey is my favorite colour, and that has lovely grey hues.

    Who would have guessed when you were a wee girl that knowledge of the tides would be so important in your future. Not me. Glad you found a safe harbour and friends to share it with. I have found in my travels that most places offer beauty but who you share the beauty with is so much more important. You seem to be doing well on that front.

    Trying not to think too much about the offshore leg of your adventure but our chat the other night eased my mind and I know you are with more than capable company.

    Xxoo from me and the familiar. Extra xxxx’s to the boys!

    1. I Love that song and was so friggin delighted to hear Dylan was awarded the Nobel prize. So deserving! When I think back on his impact on my life and his many times one of his songs rang true to me in my life, I smile.

      Offshore will be awesome and you can track is but more on that later.

      Yup the people are so great and that only covered half of this Annapolis bit, there’s more to come.

      BIG kisses back from the boys and even bigger one from moi. XOXO.

      1. One more great lyric from Bobs song
        “A song will lift
        As the mainsail shifts
        And the boat drifts on to the shoreline
        And the sun will respect
        Every face on the deck
        The hour that the ship comes in”
        Love you Ingomar crew xxoo

  5. Excellent read, as always Tess, loved it. The only thing I can do like a sailor is curse, ha ha. Great talking to you yesterday. Safe travels, love you guys.

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